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Saturday, 8 August 2020

Michigan governor demands local official resign after he blamed 'n*****s from Detroit' for spreading COVID-19 and accused Black Lives Matter of 'taking the country away from us'

Michigan's governor and other local and state officials are demanding that a northern county road commissioner resign after he repeatedly used the n-word to describe African Americans from Detroit whom he blamed for COVID-19.
When asked by a colleague why he wasn't wearing a mask before the meeting on Tuesday, Leelanau County road commissioner Tom Eckerle was quoted as saying by the Petoskey News-Review: 'Well this whole thing is because of them n*****s down in Detroit.'
The Leelanau Enterprise, which first reported the story, said on its website that the meeting could be attended by the public via phone and that anyone listening could have heard the comments. 
Since it was made before the meeting started, the comment was not officially recorded.
Tom Eckerle
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer
Tom Eckerle (left), a road commissioner for Leelanau County in northern Michigan, ignited outrage this week when he blamed 'n*****s from Detroit' for spreading COVID-19 throughout the state. Governor Gretchen Whitmer (right) and others have demanded his resignation
Eckerle made the remarks on Tuesday before the start of a meeting at the Leelanau County Road Commission building in north Michigan
Eckerle made the remarks on Tuesday before the start of a meeting at the Leelanau County Road Commission building in north Michigan
Road Commission Chair Bob Joyce told Eckerle that he couldn't say that, to which Eckerle responded: 'I can say anything I want. Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.'
Joyce later rebuked Eckerle a second time.
'There's just no room for that kind of language here,' Joyce told the Leelanau newspaper. 

'I won't tolerate any kind of racism in our meeting room or in our organization.
'Around here, it's all about the content of people's character - not the color of their skin.'
The Leelanau Enterprise said two commission members confirmed the comment was made.
'Governor Whitmer believes that Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle must resign immediately. His comments are atrocious,' said the governor's spokesperson, Tiffany Brown. 
'The governor has been very clear – there’s no place for hate and racism in Michigan.' 
Joyce told The Detroit News that three other road commissioners are pressuring Eckerle to resign.
Given another opportunity to walk back his remarks, Eckerle refused yet again on Thursday.
'No, I don’t regret calling it an n****r,' Eckerle told Interlochen Public Radio
'A n****r is a n----r is a n----r. That’s not a person whatsoever.”
Eckerle then compared the n-word to slang words for someone who was German, or a 'Polack.' 
Eckerle's remarks ignited outrage on social media as the incident was covered by several national media outlets
Eckerle's remarks ignited outrage on social media as the incident was covered by several national media outlets
One Twitter observer noted that if a reporter hadn't been listening in, 'we may never have known about this blatant racism by an elected official'
One Twitter observer noted that if a reporter hadn't been listening in, 'we may never have known about this blatant racism by an elected official'
The Chicago Teachers Union said the remarks were a symptom of 'Trump's America'
The Chicago Teachers Union said the remarks were a symptom of 'Trump's America'
Others noted that Eckerle has rejected calls to resign and has even doubled down on his comments
Others noted that Eckerle has rejected calls to resign and has even doubled down on his comments
'Eckerle does not reflect the values of our community,' said Dan Scripps, a resident of Leelanu County who chairs the Michigan Public Service Commission
'Eckerle does not reflect the values of our community,' said Dan Scripps, a resident of Leelanu County who chairs the Michigan Public Service Commission
Democratic socialists in northern Michigan are demanding that Eckerle be recalled
Democratic socialists in northern Michigan are demanding that Eckerle be recalled
US House Rep. Andy Levin, a Democrat in Congress, wrote: 'If the voters decide to exercise their right to recall Tom Eckerle, they can expect folks around the state to cheer them on.'
US House Rep. Andy Levin, a Democrat in Congress, wrote: 'If the voters decide to exercise their right to recall Tom Eckerle, they can expect folks around the state to cheer them on.'
'No, it is not racism,' Eckerle said.
According to the US Census Bureau, Leelanau County has a population of 21,761 residents - around 93 per cent of whom are white.
Less than 1 per cent of the population of the county is black. 
Michigan State Rep. Jack O'Malley, a Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said the county must take action against Eckerle.
'This type of racial slur is flat-out unacceptable and ignorant. I asked Mr. Eckerle to resign his position as road commissioner in light of these comments and shall he refuse, the citizens of Leelanau County have every right to recall him from office,' O'Malley said in a statement. 
'It saddens me to have to even make this statement.'
Eckerle, a Republican, was elected in 2018 to a six-year term on the road commission.
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also called for Eckerle to resign.
'Dropping the N-word, along with falsely claiming that police accountability activists who are American citizens are taking the country away, is discourse that that must be repudiated by all public officials,' the organization´s Executive Director Dawud Walid said in a statement.
The Associated Press was unable Thursday to find a telephone number to reach Eckerle at home, and emails to his address bounced back. 
Records show Eckerle lives in Suttons Bay, about 283 miles northwest of Detroit.
Earlier this week, Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, declared racism a public health crisis due to the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on minority communities throughout the state.
'COVID-19 has highlighted what Black & Brown communities have always known - inequities caused by systemic racism can be deadly,' the governor tweeted on Wednesday. 
'We’re confronting this head on.' 

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