Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Councilor Delights in Car Violence, Misunderstands Roads are Not Just for Cars

From KATU:
Salem City Councilor Daniel Benjamin shared a violent, racially charged video on Facebook Thursday, and now a local activist is calling for him to step down.

The video shows several African-American people being run over by vehicles....

In one scene, ominous music plays as a crowd gathers on a street. Suddenly a car plows into them.

The video then launches into a series of collisions between vehicles and groups of people.

The post includes a description from conservative blogger, Ron Dwyer, saying, "As this video shows people are starting to get tired of the Black Lives Matter bullies blocking the roadways."
The Mayor's censure was pretty feeble, really:
"I told him that I was disappointed and shocked at the video and I suggested that he take it down," Peterson said. "We're striving hard to let people in the community know that the city of Salem stands firmly beside the civil rights of every person in this city."

Perhaps in response, yesterday the City posted a video themselves:
We want to assure you of our unwavering commitment to protecting your civil rights, and ensuring the City of Salem remains consistent with its vision and values of inclusiveness for our community. We are made stronger by the many backgrounds, perspectives and origins of the people of Salem.

It is paramount that this city always remembers what we stand for, what we work so hard for, and what we hope to continue embracing in our community.

We stand united in our promise to keep Salem a safe place that you can be proud to call home.
Councilors and other Electeds are humans of course and will have unkind thoughts from time to time. The key is that a good official will know that most of them are inappropriate to share and embrace publicly, and will exercise good judgement, restraint, and tact.

Councilor Benjamin should probably resign. It is especially his defiance afterwards that makes him unfit to serve:
Benjamin told a KATU reporter off-camera the post was on his personal Facebook page and although it was public, anyone who doesn't like it can unfriend him.

He also said it has nothing to do with race and, "To infer I'm a racist is actually racist."
The events and outcome of our just concluded election have created a permission structure in which naked racism, even more genteel and benign forms of it, seem more acceptable and White Nationalism more vocal.

The focus here, of course, is on transportation. We have to understand ways that autoism is too often used for dominance and power, and to make dissent or diversity more difficult or problematic. (Just consider, even, our poor bus service and the times Council meets. There is an autoist bias there, favoring people with cars.)

Streets are public space. People on foot use them also. And a special use, critical in our democratic Republic, is for assembly and dissent. Publicly relishing images of plowing cars through people assembled in protest is not right.

Write City Council and tell them this is wrong.

(Comments are closed. This is a rare exception to the guideline here to discuss policy not people. Write City Council, or show up next Monday, rather than commenting on social media!)

Update, noon

Councilor Andersen is moving formally. From his facebook page on a letter he sent to Council:
I also am aware of the Council rules about censure including that the Council may sanction a Councilor if his "actions reflect poorly on the city" or if the Councilor does not conduct himself "appropriate to the dignity of the office." This certainly is the situation here.

So what are we going to do about it?

I move that the Council investigate the FaceBook postings of Councilor Benjamin, including but not limited to his posts of November 17, 2016, to consider whether it is appropriate to censure the Councilor under the City Code.
Update, November 23rd, a little after 3 o'clock in the afternoon

The Statesman-Journal is reporting that Benjamin has resigned.