Councilwoman's Comments On Racial Profiling Spark Outcry
UPDATE: 9:30 a.m. July 29, 2016
In lieu of the protest at Councilwoman Cole's district office, activists are holding a "vigil for peace" Friday at 6 p.m. This follows the shooting of two police officers in southeastern San Diego.
Activists in southeastern San Diego are calling for the resignation of City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole after she made controversial remarks on race relations.
Cole spoke at the end of Tuesday's City Council meeting recapping a town hall event she held in her district to discuss recent police shootings of African-Americans. She described tense exchanges with some attendees who felt they were not being allowed to speak.
"We had a group of young people that were not only disruptive, but disrespectful," she said. "That was the second hardest thing I've ever done in my professional career, was to allow this. But we did, because I know there was a lot on their minds and a lot on their hearts."
Cole then turned to the subject of racial profiling by police — the subject of scrutiny in San Diego because a study SDSU researchers are doing on the subject for the city has been delayed again.
"There's more black-on-black shootings in our nation than ever before," Cole said. "Blacks are shooting blacks. So who do (the police) stop? They're not going to stop a white male. They're not going to stop a Hispanic male or Asian. They're going to stop an African-American. That's who they're going to stop, because those are the ones (who are) shooting."
The Rev. Shane Harris, president of the local chapter of the National Action Network, said Cole's comments were offensive and that she should resign.
"This is a slap in the face to minorities — not just in the 4th District, but across this county and across this country," Harris said.
Harris said he and other residents of southeastern San Diego have long found Cole a poor advocate for her constituents and for African-Americans in San Diego, and that she has ignored their concerns about development and gentrification in her council district.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon by Cole's office, the councilwoman apologized and said she condemns racial profiling. Here's the full statement:
"I made some remarks at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that have provoked an overwhelming response from the residents of the Fourth Council District, and I need to correct those remarks.
"First and foremost, let me apologize to my community for miscommunicating my concerns surrounding violence affecting black Americans. I understand your reaction because I did not express my concerns clearly, and instead related two distinct issues to one another.
"I want to be clear in telling you, my community, that I condemn racial profiling in all forms and all instances. I do not condone racial discrimination by the police or any institution.
"Tackling inequality has always been a priority of mine, and it’s why I serve on the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee. I regret that I failed to communicate my position on racial injustice earlier this week.
"I do hope my previous work in this community demonstrates these priorities and I hope you’ll join me in my continued pursuit of equity for San Diegans.
"In the coming weeks I will be making a push for substantial changes with regard to police practices. I’ve heard your call for action, and I plan to take it. Please work with me to create solutions and improve relations between the police force and the community they serve."
Cole won the City Council District 4 seat in a special election in 2013 after Councilman Tony Young resigned. She then easily won re-election the next year to represent the district, which includes Oak Park, Emerald Hills, Encanto and Paradise Hills.