DeKalb County candidate apologizes for using term ‘racial uprisings’ in remarks
DECATUR, Ga. (CBS46) - A DeKalb County commission candidate is being criticized for using what some are calling a racially-insensitive phrase. It’s costing her a major endorsement just weeks before the primary.
“It’s hard right now to even find law enforcement. One of my clients -- I’m actually doing an American Rescue Plan project in a municipality. Prior to the ‘racial uprisings,’ they would get roughly about a hundred applications,” said Democratic candidate Michelle Long Spears on April 19 at a forum.
She was asked about public safety and police recruitment during a forum, where she used “racial uprisings” a few times to describe the protests after George Floyd’s murder.
“Again and again and again, she is blaming the problems that police face on the Black Lives Matter movement, on the demonstrations that rocked the entire globe,” said Dekalb Democrats Chairman John Jackson who is no longer endorsing Spears.
Spears talked with CBS46 News on-camera Monday.
“I apologize for my comments, that they were insensitive, hurtful or any way minimizing the Black Lives Matter movement,” Spears said.
CBS46 News asked what Spears meant by the phrase, “racial uprisings.”
“I again, very deeply sorry for my choice of words, and when I’m in office I’ll certainly make sure we’ve got policy in place to address those issues,” said Spears.
Lauren Alexander is running against Spears, and says using the phrase shows ignorance.
“I thought that she really misunderstood the movement. I thought she really missed the mark in understanding what Black Lives Matter protests were about,” Alexander said. “I would challenge her to touch base with people and find out how that would impact them.”
Marshall Orson, another candidate in the race, released a statement, saying:
“I was shocked when I heard the statement, and even more so when it was repeated. But most concerning is that the statement completely devalued the efforts of the many who were speaking up for human and civil rights for Black individuals while trying to blame shortcomings in policing and police recruitment on those speaking up.”
Incumbent Jeff Rader says he will continue to support Spears with his endorsement. He released a statement saying:
“Notwithstanding her admitted mistakes in responding to a question at a forum, I continue to support Michelle Long Spears as the candidate best qualified, most capable, and most temperamentally suited to serve our constituents.”
Georgia Conservation Voters is also rescinding their endorsement for Spears. They released a statement saying:
“GCV was not aware of the statements made by Ms. Spears when we released our endorsement. In light of the situation, we are pulling our endorsement of Ms. Spears and her campaign for the DeKalb County District 2 Commissioner seat. There is a way to acknowledge the difficulty police departments are facing with recruitment, while also acknowledging the concerns Black communities are raising about how they are policed. Demands for justice and equity are not and never should be demeaned as “racial uprisings.” Language matters and Ms. Spears’ statements regarding the BLM movement and the racial inequality in our communities is insensitive and damaging to the work we do at GCV, which is rooted in environmental justice and equity.”
Meanwhile, Spears had previously released a lengthier statement saying:
“I apologize for my comments and that they were triggering, hurtful, and appeared to undermine the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement – that was truly not my intention and my stance on public safety is that brutality, racism, and abuse of power have no place in our police force,” Spears said. “As District 2 Commissioner, I would support policies that address this, including a top-down review of police use of force policies and procedures, creating a civilian review board, investing in the expansion of the DeKalb Community Service Board’s (CSB) mental health co-responder program and working to create a 21st-century approach to public safety with equity and restorative justice as guiding principles. "
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