D.C. Council Kwame Brown (D-At large) confronted Attorney General Peter Nickles on the steps of city hall this evening and accused him of needlessly fanning racial tensions surrounding the council's decision not to confirm Ximena Hartsock as the director of Parks and Recreation.
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Brown shouted after he went up to Nickles on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building during a rally in support of Hartsock. Brown also accused Nickles of "inciting people."
The tension stems from comments Nickles made after the council voted 7 to 5 on Oct. 6 to oust Hartsock, a native of Chile, as the director. The Washington Examiner quoted Nickles calling the vote a "shameless act." Nickles also referred to Hartsock's confirmation hearing Oct. 2 as "a misogynist, racist hearing."
During that hearing, Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) reportedly implied that Hartsock wasn't qualified for the position of parks director because she didn't understand African-American culture. But the council members who voted not to confirm Hartsock, including Brown, say her ethnicity had nothing to do with their decision. The council members say Hartsock wasn't qualified and had not been following the law on the privatization of daycare centers.
Hispanic activists mounted their second protest in less than a week Wednesday evening in front of the Wilson Building. About three-dozen protestors demanded that the council issue a written apology for its treatments of Hartsock as well as review its standards on racial and gender sensitivity.
"We are here because the D.C. Council chose to discriminate against Dr. Hartsock because she is a woman, she is a Latino and because English is not her first language," said Rodrigo B. Leiva, executive director of the Latino Federation of Greater Washington. "We as the Latino community will not stand for it."
During the rally, Brown emerged from the Wilson Building and asked if he could address the crowd to explain his vote against Ximena.
Although Brown told the crowd the council vote against had nothing to with her ethnicity, he said he wanted to "personally apologize" on behalf of the council "for every Latino that was offended."
Brown, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor in 2010, told the crowd that it was wrong for them to try to make it a racial issue.
'For the people who say this is racist, you are wrong," Brown said.
After his remarks, Brown spotted Nickles, who was also getting ready to address the crowd. Brown bolted to the railing, leaned over, and told him he's "wrong."
"The stuff about it being racist is wrong," Brown said. "That really incites the community."
Nickels responded, "You voted against her...There is no law she violated."
In an interview after his remarks, Nickles said he never argued that the council vote was racist. But Nickles said the council made a major legal error by arguing that Hartsock had violated the law in helping Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) push to privatize the daycare centers.
"To use the excuse that she had violated the law...I speak for the law," Nickles said. "I continue to support Ximena. She is a great symbol for this whole city, not just the Latino community."