The Eugene City Council narrowly passed a resolution condemning white nationalism and alt-right activities and groups. The final vote was 4 to 3.
Among those in opposition were councilors Betty Taylor, Mike Clark, and Emily Semple.
Semple, a member of the Human Rights Commission introduced the resolution. But she changed her stance after Councilor Clark openly questioned the language of denouncing a “belief.”
“My problem with that is a different council one day, made up of different people, made up of people with different beliefs and we’re saying this is the official belief. The city of Eugene, that we condemn people who hold this belief,” Clark said.
Semple then withdrew her support for the resolution. Clark said he’s not comfortable with taking away the right of others to hold their own beliefs. His attempt to amend the resolution to remove the wording was voted down.
The vote comes after 2 letters were sent by over 30 organizations and business calling for the city to denounce white supremacy. Both letters acknowledged Eugene as an "open and welcoming city," but called for stronger political condemnation of white supremacy and bigotry.
It also asked for better recognition of historical racism, including the presence of the Ku Klux Klan.
“Words really can help people feel safer if they see a commitment from the city to protecting them and creating safe spaces so that families aren’t living in fear," said Marissa Garcia. She represented Huerto de la Familia and the Latinx Alliance of Lane County at a press conference Monday morning. Both organizations signed the letter along with 24 other groups.
Garcia said people often think resolutions are just words, but for marginalized communities, it can have significant weight.
"Families can focus on preserving their culture and spending time with their families and not having to worry about whether if they go out in public they’ll be safe," Garcia said.
Both Mayor Vinis and Councilor Emily Semple were present during the press conference Monday morning. Mayor Vinis told KLCC that in addition to condemning white supremacy, the resolution embraces the history of minorities, peoples of color, the LGBTQ community and people from various religions.
"One of the actions is calling on the city to move forward and create a narrative [to] improve the historical record about the contributions of minorities within our community," Vinis said.
A separate letter was signed by 11 local businesses in support of the resolution. The letter says businesses owned by women, people of color, and immigrants have been the targets of neo-Nazi graffiti and harassment.
At least one of the businesses that signed onto the letter had their storefront vandalized on June 12, when multiple Swastikas were found spray-painted on downtown businesses, sidewalks, and benches. No arrests have been made in connection with the graffiti.