SAVANNAH, GA: On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, a meeting was held for mayoral candidates at Bolton Street Baptist Church in an attempt to unite the Black community behind a single candidate for mayor in the upcoming November 5th election.
The organizer of the event, Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, allowed press to attend the event with one caveat: you had to be African-American to go inside. At least two television stations with Black reporters were permitted inside reported the Savannah Morning News. Furthermore, there were signs taped to the doors that read “NO Audio or Video Recording” and “NO Media (T.V., Radio, etc.) Black Press Only!”
According to WJCL 22’s Stephen Moody, one of the reporters allowed into the meeting, was told by Alderman Van Johnson, one of the Democratic nominees for mayor who defended coming to the openly exclusive meeting, “I was invited to a meeting to give a statement. I came and gave a statement,” He then later repeated his defense on Twitter:
I was invited as a 2019 Savannah Mayoral Candidate to give a candidacy statement to a gathering of African American community leaders. I accepted this invitation as an opportunity to share my vision for a… https://t.co/0dHGkl4Sxt
— Alderman Van Johnson (@AldermanJohnson) March 28, 2019
Johnson also issued a statement to WTOC on Thursday, in which he said, “I accepted this invitation as an opportunity to share my vision for a progressive Savannah, as I have with business, civic, labor, neighborhood, veteran, political, Latino/Hispanic and LGBTQ groups in private and public settings.” He also later admitted to knowing about the restriction of this event to “Black Media.”
Louis Wilson, an unannounced candidate for mayor after an unsuccessful run in 2015, was also at the meeting. As of the time of writing this, he has not released a statement on the meeting. Other people in attendance were Edna Jackson, Savannah’s former mayor, and Chatham County Commissioner Chester Ellis.
Former state Senator Regina Thomas, another Democratic candidate running for the mayorship, did not attend the meeting. She stated that she believed the meeting was “premature because qualifying isn’t until August, the week of the 19 through the 23rd, and I think there may be many other candidates to get in….”
The current mayor of Savannah, Eddie DeLoach (R), is seeking re-election this fall after his victory in the 2015 election. He is just one of three Republicans to hold the seat since the Civil War. Currently, elections for Savannah’s top office are nonpartisan, meaning that all candidates who qualify end up on the November ballot. Consequently, a split vote could cost the Democrats their opportunity to flip the seat blue, which is why this election is of great consequence to Savannah Democrats.
Currently, the Democratic Party has not responded to this racist, exclusive meeting. However, the 2016 Democratic Party Platform specifically states on page 42 that they “will support strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and equality for women and minorities.” If the Democratic Party truly believes this, it seems like someone has some explaining to do as for why the “Party of Equality” doesn’t believe in equality for all.
Sadly, only conservatives seem to be condemning this stunt. Vince Coakley, a former Republican Nominee for Congress in North Carolina’s 12th District jokingly said, “No racism here. Move along. Nothing to see here….”
— Vince Coakley (@vincecoakley) March 29, 2019
Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, who organized the meeting, has declined to discuss the entry policy. He also told WJCL 22 that he cannot put them in touch with who ran the meeting.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.