The Charlotte City Council on Monday passed a resolution condemning President Trump’s “racist and xenophobic comments,” in a rebuke of the president by the city that will host him next year at the Republican National Convention.
The 9-to-2 vote came a week after Trump sent a racist tweet in which he said four minority congresswomen — Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) — should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
It also came after Trump held a rally in Greenville, N.C., about 220 miles from Charlotte, at which supporters chanted “Send her back! Send her back!” in response to Trump’s criticism of Omar.
All four of the congresswomen are U.S. citizens. Omar was born in Somalia and became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.
James Mitchell Jr., one of the council members who supported the resolution, said the move was intended to send a message to the White House: “We may not be able to control what you say, but we’re going to tell you how we feel about it in Charlotte, North Carolina.”
All nine of the city council’s Democrats voted for the measure, while the two Republicans on the council opposed it.
The resolution, which was introduced by council member Justin Harlow, specifically mentions the two incidents involving the minority congresswomen, as well as several of Trump’s previous remarks, such as his statement that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
The measure states that the city council “strongly condemns all of President Donald Trump’s racist and xenophobic social media tweets and comments.” It also “acknowledges that many of the City’s residents are immigrants and/or people of color” and “condemns all hate speech, bigotry, racism, and discrimination, wherever it may occur, especially from the highest levels of government.”
The House of Representatives last week passed a resolution condemning Trump’s remarks about the four congresswomen, rejecting the president’s “racist comments that have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
A little over a year ago, the Charlotte City Council narrowly voted 6 to 5 to give the convention the green light. That was followed by a unanimous vote in favor of Charlotte by the Republican National Committee’s site selection panel.
But the prospect of Charlotte hosting the GOP convention sparked heated debate; some local Democrats argued last year that the city should not play host to Trump given his inflammatory remarks, with one council member describing the president as “a demagogue of hate.”
The city’s Democratic mayor, Vi Lyles, wrote last year in a Charlotte Observer op-ed that she would welcome the GOP convention to her city — both for its economic impact and to send a message of inclusivity at a time when national partisan tensions are running high.
The debate has only intensified in the wake of Trump’s most recent remarks.
Harlow tweeted last Thursday: “If the RNC vote was redone today, I bet @CLTgov wouldn’t be hosting it. Would probably be a 7-4 vote against instead of 6-5 in favor.”
At Monday night’s meeting, he argued that “people should know where we stand as elected officials” on Trump’s comments, adding, “We should be speaking out on racism and xenophobia always, every day.”
Another council member, Dimple Ajmera, said the “Send her back!” chant at Trump’s Greenville rally reminded her of when she had been told the same thing by others.
“When those words were said at the rally, it brought tears to my eyes. And unfortunately, this has become a norm, and it should not be,” said Ajmera, who was born in India and came to the United States as a teenager.
Lyles, the first black woman to serve as Charlotte’s mayor, referenced her own experience growing up in the segregated South. She recounted a time when her father was working and wasn’t paid because he was black.
“So when you talk about what it means to understand racism and misogyny, we all know,” she said.
Pointing to the “Send her back!” chants in Greenville, Lyles asked: “Why is this still us? Why in this state, in North Carolina, do we still have that statement?”
Edmund H. Driggs, one of the council’s two Republicans, said he was “not prepared to lay blame” on Trump, arguing that there has been bad behavior on both sides of the aisle.
“Listen to the anger here tonight. ‘Racist, bigot, racist, bigot.’ . . . Look at yourselves. It takes two. It really does,” he said.
Tariq Bokhari, the other Republican on the council, argued that the word “racism” is being “thrown around like the word ‘witch’ was in the 1600s.”
“I oppose all forms of hate speech,” Bokhari said, before adding, “Don’t be mistaken, that is not what we are here doing today.”
Some audience members at Monday’s meeting urged the city council to try to back out of its contract to host the convention. One local resident, Diana Levitt, received a standing ovation from many in the crowd when she urged the council to reconsider.
“The hate has since grown louder, and yet you continue to sit quietly,” she told the council members. “Our community has asked you to revoke this invitation, and you sit quietly.”
Despite the calls to reconsider hosting the convention, it appears the city’s options are limited.
The Charlotte city attorney, Patrick Baker, said he had examined the contract and determined that the city probably would not be able to walk away from it, even if it were willing to suffer the financial penalties of doing so.
“I’m not in a position to recommend that you terminate the contract,” Baker said, noting that a potential breach could trigger a lawsuit that would result in the city being forced to follow through on its contractual obligations.
After the resolution condemning Trump’s remarks passed, some in the room applauded. But Lyles quickly told them to stop.
“It’s not a sport,” she said. “This is life.”