Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms is taking on opponent Mary Norwood over Norwood’s response last week on the existence of racial profiling.
In a radio ad that began running Wednesday, Bottoms, an Atlanta City Councilwoman, criticizes Norwood, also a member of the Atlanta City Council, for initially signaling that she did not believe police “target or racially profile black and brown males in the community” at a mayoral forum by activist group Georgia Stand Up.
The candidates for mayor had been given a “yes” or “no” sign to answer questions in a speed round. When queried on racial profiling, Norwood hesitated and asked for clarification, asking if the reference was in Atlanta or in the nation.
“My husband and I repeatedly have the painful conversation with our teenage son about being stopped by police,” Bottoms, the mother of four African-American children, says in the ad. “It’s a life or death conversation too many parents have to have. Mary (Norwood) can’t change something that she doesn’t even know exists.”
The ad comes as Bottoms has moved up in recent polling, fighting for second place behind frontrunner Norwood.
“Atlanta is doing a better job than most but racial profiling is a problem everywhere,” Bottoms says in the ad. “Most police are good but we must have leaders who recognize that there is a problem so they can do something about it.”
Ellen Adair Wyche, a spokeswoman for Norwood, said she was disappointed by the ad because “Mary is about unifying people, not dividing them.
“People who know Mary and her record know who Mary is and that (the inexistence of racial profiling) is not what she was implying,” Wyche said. “It terms of Keisha’s ad, Mary’s record speak volumes as well as her deep and authentic relationship with people across the city.”
“The question came during a Georgia STAND-UP event during a segment of the forum where each of the candidates were given “yes” or “no” signs. Moderator Rashad Richey asked the candidates whether they believe police “target or racially profile black and brown males in the community?”
When Norwood asked whether he meant in Atlanta or around the nation, Richey amended the question to ask candidates whether they think “people in Atlanta racially profile.”
As about 10 of her rivals raised signs in the affirmative, Norwood took no initial stance – and instead raised the microphone to try to explain her position. As some in the crowd stirred, the City Councilwoman said “It’s really important that we isolate Atlanta” before her words were drowned out.
Richey pressed her to take a stance, reminding Norwood that candidates agreed to the yes/no phase of the forum. She raised the “yes” placard at that point.”
Norwood later said she paused in “deference and support” of Atlanta Police Department officers.
“The prospect of racial profiling on the part of police in Atlanta and across our country is a matter of great concern,” she said. “As mayor I will see to it that we continue the APD training in place and show no tolerance for any racial profiling.”
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