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Eugene City Council Unanimously Passes Amended Resolution Denouncing White Supremacy

City of Eugene

Two days after passing a resolution condemning white nationalism and alt-right activities, the Eugene City Council voted to amend it. The councilors unanimously approved the changes on Wednesday. 

This story has been updated to include the final resolution.

The motion to reconsider the narrowly approved resolution was not on the agenda, but Councilor Chris Pryor, who initiated the motion, said he wanted a more unanimous decision on the vote.

“It would be nice if the city council could provide greater and more forceful support for this particular resolution to demonstrate clearly that this city is opposed to this level of racism,” Pryor said.

Councilors Emily Semple, Mike Clark, and Betty Taylor voted against theresolution Monday night.

Highlighted areas show sections where Councilor Mike Clark proposed changes. A final version of the resolution is linked at the end of the story.

The language used in Section C of the original resolution had Councilor Mike Clark concerned over the possibility of setting a precedent for condemning the beliefs of individuals.

Councilors Emily Semple, a member of the Human Rights Council, voted against the original resolution that she introduced at press conferenceMonday morning.

“I am proud to have brought the resolution condemning white nationalism and alt-right activities, and groups from the Human Rights Commission,” Semple said during the work session.

Semple said after Clark brought up the possibility of infringing upon the freedom of speech and civil rights  she voted no.

“I have no problem condemning, or difficultly disapproving of white nationalism actions leaving all free to think and believe whatever we want,” Semple said.

Both Semple and Clark failed gain enough votes to amend the resolution before it passed 4-3. Clark said in the two days since he voted against the resolution in its original form he’s been called a racist on social media.

“I find that really unfortunate because my objection to this was principled and I don’t personally have a belief that any particular race is more superior or inferior to any other,” Clark said.

Clark said his issue had to do with what he found to be incendiary and factually questionable language in the statement. The council hashed out the wording until they reached an agreement.

At the meeting, Clark suggested changes to Sections C, D, E, and H so that he could vote yes. In Section C, Clark asked to remove the word “belief” and use the phrase “the promotion of the idea” instead. 

In Section D council agreed to strike “alt-right” and the phrase "many of which have been emboldened by the national political dialogue." Instead they chose to replace it so it reads: "We recognize that there has been a rise of white nationalist, and white supremacist groups in the United States, and that the national political dialogue reflects this racist tension."

Clark also recommended altering the word “maintaining” to “emphasizing” in Section E. Councilor Claire Syrett opposed this change.

“I do believe that that is a huge part of the purpose and the scope of white supremacy is to maintain that regime and that situation,” Syrett said. Clark agreed to leave the wording as it was originally phrased.

Highlighted areas show sections where Councilor Mike Clark proposed changes. A final version of the resolution is linked at the end of the story.

Syrett said she was fine with other changes, but added that she was against tolerating, or accommodating white supremacy. 

“If we are silent or timid in the face of racist beliefs that promote supremacy of one race over another we are complicit in allowing those beliefs to take up greater and greater space,” Syrett said. Syrett added that doing so legitimizes expressing and acting upon racist beliefs.

Clark also suggested changes to Section H by striking the examples that discussed the internment of Japanese-Americans and the migration of Central Americans.

“There were certain portions of that for example part that we not necessary to make the statement for resolution and were at least questionable, or debatable to many people who are not racists, I thought it went a little too far,” Clark said.

He later reached a comprise with Councilors Alan Zelenka, Jennifer Yeh, and Chris Pryor. They agreed to remove “white supremacy” and “militias” from the section.

Section H would now read as follows:

"For example, extreme racial prejudice resulted the deportation of Japanese-Americans following Pearl Harbor, leading to government action that resulted in their forced relocation to incarceration camps with deplorable living conditions. Today, groups are advocating for the apprehension, detention and deportation of Central American refugees legally seeking asylum in the United States."

None of the verbiage in the therefore section was amended. The final resolution is linked here.

Copyright 2019 KLCC.

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.
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