Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton, who said the resolution was proposed by Councilman Lewis Wheaton and himself, said he and his wife, Laura, are “mad, angry and we are hurting with everyone” who have been affected by these events.
Wheaton, the only black person on the City Council, said it’s important for elected officials to condemn “the very things we feel should not be part of our society and racism is one of those things.”
The deaths of black people in America were once again brought to the forefront when cell phone video of the Feb. 23 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County became public in early May, more than two months after his fatal encounter with father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, who are white.
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Both men, along with William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr., who recorded the altercation of the shooting, have been charged with murder. Bryan also faces one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Within four days of Floyd’s death, Chauvin was fired from the police force and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Video of Floyd’s last moments alive shocked many around the country, and protests have erupted in several cities around the nation.
Wheaton said the last month has been painful and that his emotions have been all over the place. The father of two boys, Wheaton said the deaths of Floyd and Arbery remind him of similar stories his father have told him.
“It hurts, but it also pushes me forward to do something,” he said. “We are at a point where we are thinking about actions and not just feelings.”
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Norton said the Council is working with staff to make sure Smyrna is doing whatever it can to fight racism in the city.
“That’ll be part of this longer conversation that we have, and we’ll stand firm against racism whenever an where ever it exists,” he said of the next steps.
Councilwoman Susan Wilkinson, who said she was “deeply saddened by these events,” said she supports appointing a citizen-led committee to draft recommendations on what specific action Smyrna can take against racism.
“I think it’s important for our community and for our leadership to support this resolution, and I’m very proud for us to be able to do that,” she said.
Councilman Austin Wagner said it’s important for elected officials to acknowledge that racism still exists and to take action to “start breaking down those structures of systemic racism.” One of those structures he’d like to address is housing and exclusionary zoning practices that led to racially segregated neighborhoods around the country.
“Actions are when it can get tough, but I’m hopeful that Smyrna can take the lead on this and start making some changes,” he said.
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