Cortland Common Council last night voted down a request by a citizen to paint a “Back the Blue” mural outside the city police department on Court Street, a project city leaders had initially considered allowing.
A crowded public hearing led off the virtual meeting, attended by dozens who either watched or voiced their concerns on either side of the issue.
Supporters of the mural said it was a way to show appreciation for local law enforcement officers.
That point was countered by a diversity of voices who felt it would be a direct counter-protest to the local “Black Lives Matter” movement and a city-approved painting on Main Street at the end of June, part of a series of rallies in the area to show solidarity with those nationwide protesting the death of Minnesota man George Floyd.
Speaking at last night’s hearing was Melissa Kiser, a Black resident and co-organizer of the local BLM group.
“With the level of oppression Black people experience at the hands of White people, specifically in systems like the police, glorifying racism with a mural is exactly what this is,” Kiser said. “It is a way of people publicly demonstrating they’re not considerate of their Black and Brown neighbors who asked for this not to happen.”
Ultimately, a new resolution was passed that prohibits any new street painting projects through April 2021 – and also to remove the Black Lives Matter mural on Main Street at some point soon.
Ward 6 Alderman and career police officer Bill Carpenter thought the original request should have gone through.
“We vote on things and I believe we should carry through on the vote. That’s just my opinion,” Carpenter said.
The final result was a 5-3 tally, with the ay’s including Kat McCarthy (Ward 1); Kathryn Silliman (Ward 2); Bruce Tytler (Ward 3); John Bennett (Ward 3); and Jackie Chapman (Ward 5).
Voting against the new measure were Carpenter, Troy Beckwith (Ward 7) and Thomas Michales (Ward 8).
Afterwards, Tobin urged anyone who remained unsatisfied with the decision to contact him directly.
“Let’s sit down and talk about the issues we both see. Convince me otherwise that this is the right thing to do and I will change my mind,” said Tobin, “but at this time with everything going on, this isn’t the right step for Cortland.”
Meanwhile, the “Community Matters Fair” is on for this Sunday at Suggett Park from Noon-5 pm.
Face covering and social distancing protocols must be followed at all times.
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