Akron City Council of Monday passed a resolution critical of President Donald Trump for his tweets telling four congresswomen of color to leave America, but some members abstained from the vote.

As Trump entered a third day of insulting civil rights leaders Rep. Elijah Cummings and the Rev. Al Sharpton, the council condemned what Trump tweeted two weeks ago to U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

In the series of critical tweets, Trump asked, “Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.[sic]”

Councilman Rich Swirsky, who represents a stretch of Akron from Wallhaven to downtown, said the remarks smacked of “hate and racism.” He touched base with elected colleagues, including African American women, before introducing a resolution admonishing Trump Monday in council's Rules Committee.

“American patriotism is not defined by race or ethnicity, but by devotion to the Constitutional ideas of equality, liberty, inclusion and democracy,” Swirsky wrote. “President Trump’s statements aim to stifle any potential dissent to his personal agenda, and have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

Swirsky told council that he was motivated to craft the response after hearing Trump supporters chant “send her back” at the first campaign rally the president held following the remarks. Trump didn't stop the chant. He waited 13 seconds for the crowd to subside before resuming his attack on Omar.

“Please,” Swirsky asked his colleagues on council, “help separate us from quiet, silenced government officials who don’t protest Trump’s acrimony.”

Three black women elected to Akron council added their names to the resolution. But it barely passed out of a five-member committee in the afternoon before getting the support of 10 of the 13 members when council met Monday night. Councilmen Mike Freeman and Donnie Kammer abstained from the vote; Bob Hoch was not present.

Hoch, who along with Freeman voted against the measure in committee, said Monday afternoon that there’s a “growing war inside our country pitting us against each other."

“We need to stop going back and forth and quit the finger pointing and the attacking and the insinuations and the disrespect,” said Hoch, who blamed all sides for elevated rancor in American politics.

“I was brought up that you respect people in position,” said Hoch, who recounted his military service. “You may not like them. You may not like what they do, but they are in that position, and they do — and the office does— command respect from the people of the United States.”

“You've got to give respect to get respect," said Councilwoman Tara Samples. "But you are the leader of the free world. So your respect level should be on a whole different level than anyone else’s."

Omar, a Somali refugee, is the only one of the four junior congresswomen not born in America, and all four are U.S. citizens. Samples said immigrants, like those who are rebuilding Akron's North Hill, should be offended. "We all should," she said, adding that even Trump's grandparents, who emigrated from Europe, "couldn't speak English."

Samples joined President Margo Sommerville, At-Large Councilwoman Veronica Sims and Vice President Jeff Fusco in lauding Swirsky’s condemnation of Trump’s words. “President Trump’s comments continue to promote and legitimize fear and hatred of people of color,” said Sommerville. “Thank you, Councilman Swirsky, for your comments and for bringing this forward.”

In the committee vote, Hoch, who left the Democratic Party this month, publicly gave his opinion and voted no. Freeman, who like everyone else on council is an elected Democrat, abstained from voting. He later told a reporter that he did not find Trump's comments to be rooted in race.

“Trump said what he did because these four [congresswomen] are saying things that are outlandish,” Freeman said.

Mayor Dan Horrigan, who did not have time to review Swirsky’s resolution, said that “as public elected officials, part of our jobs is to be ‘uniters.’ Rhetoric like that is demeaning and divisive, and beneath the dignity of the office.”

 

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com.