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White Supremacy vs. Public Opinion in City Hall: Morph Into Race Baiting by the Lake City Reporter

Photo of white nationalist roger wiggins addressing the Lake City, City Council

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night in City Hall began innocently, with long time resident Sandra Smith addressing the City Council commenting on the rules of procedure for public speakers and the City giving a "soapbox" for any comments at all.

Background

Lake City City Hall, which for decades was the bell weather for open and diverse public discourse in Columbia County and surrounding areas, has lately deteriorated into personal insults, personal accusations, personal attacks, character assassination and race based comments, most of which have done nothing to move Lake City forward into the 21st century.

The May 6, 2019, City Council meeting began like any other City Council meeting. Folks filled out public comment cards; they were turned into the Clerk; the Mayor called speakers to the microphone in the order of submission.

The City rules (by ordinance 1968) allow: Taxpayers or residents of the city, or their authorized legal representatives, may address the council by oral communication on any matter concerning the city's business, or any matter over which the council has control; provided, however, that preference shall be given to those persons who may have notified the city clerk in advance of their desire to speak in order that the same may appear on the agenda of the council.

Approximately 15 minutes into the meeting, Mayor Witt invited Roger Wiggins to the microphone.

Mr. Wiggins began, "I think I used up half my time gettin' up here, (audience chuckle), but, my name is Roger Wiggins and I am a white nationalist (audience collective groan)..."image of speaker linked to sound file of Roger Wiggins

Mr. Wiggins explained his white nationalism and revisionist theories.

One person interrupted Mr. Wiggins' presentation, Sylvester Warren, who has told the City Council that he (Warren) speaks for "my community." Mr. Warren is black. From the audience, Mr. Warren asked, "So Mayor, are you going to entertain this?"

Mr. Wiggins was at the end of his presentation and concluded his remarks.

Sandra Smith: A Brief Presentation Regarding City Rules

Sandra Smith addresses the Lake City, City Council
Sandra Smith addresses the City Council (file)

Last night, May 20, 2019, Ms. Smith addressed the Council: "I do not understand when we had an individual from the public stand up and do an incendiary speech of his personal likes and dislikes and his revisionist history in a public meeting with an agenda. I was under the impression that when we have a meeting that we are addressing the items on the agenda or things that the city can address... I did not know that we were doing a soap box for any individual that's wants to make a speech."

Mayor Witt answered, "I didn't either. I was fixin' to shut him down when he finally did stop. But no, that's what we're here to do."

Glenel Bowden: Former City Councilman & Community Activist

Glenel Bowden addresses the Lake City, City Council
Glenel Bowden addresses the City Council (file)

Mr. Bowden addressed Mayor Witt, "In the public comment part I understand that a person can talk about anything they want to talk about. Am I not correct?"

Mayor Witt responded, "For years I've never had an issue runnin' a meetin'... And now I'm refereein' City Council meetings. I'm gettin' criticized if I do stop it."

Mr. Bowden replied, "That's because you don't like what you hear."

Mayor Witt said, "No. I get criticized if I don't stop it. I get criticized if I do stop it. And we ought to be able to come to this meetin', talk about city business, civilly, and be done with it."

Mr. Bowden took exception: "We can, but you are tryin' to tell some of us what we can talk about when it come to city business. That's the problem... you are not going to deny me my right to my freedom of speech... If I support you shuttin' him down [Mr. Wiggins], then when I get up here and start talkin' about somethin' that somebody else don't like or find a problem with, then you are goin' to shut me down. Freedom of speech is what this [is] all about..."

Mr. Bowden addressed the Sylvester Warren issue, "Before Sylvester Warren started addressin' this City Council, it never become an issue."

Sylvester Warren Addressed the City Council

Sylvester Warren addresses the Lake City, City Council
Sylvester Warren addresses the City Council (file)

Mr. Warren addressed the Council: "... Just because you disagree with someone's content, doesn't mean you shut them down... You let him [Wiggins] go on, but when I'm tryin' to address [stuff] that relates to my community, you, Melinda Moses and different one[s], you all want to stop me dead in my tracks... When it comes to Sylvester Warren about real issues in a community that has blight; that has a lack of service; and has been overlooked, it becomes an issue you don't want to hear... There's a lot of stuff Mayor that you're just not bein' straight on..."

Mr. Warren continued, "You got two black councilmen here and if they're honest they'll tell you it's not about race, but it seems like since Sylvester's been at the podium addressin' real issues... (he explained that people bring him issues and he passes them on to the council) ...."

Mr. Warren addressed Mayor Witt, "If you're gonna' run it. Run it right.... address the problems. The only problem you have is not addressin' the problems... These issues that we're talkin' about are the issues that never seem to get resolved. Let's resolve these issues and I promise you they won't be discussed...."

Epilogue (analysis): Race Baiting

Lake City Mayor Steve Witt
Mayor Steve Witt (file)

Folks taking advantage of "areas of blight" in America is nothing new. It is the way some folks keep their foot on the throats of others to obtain money from the feds, states, and local governments to take care of pet projects, many times for the benefit of their friends.

Look at the grant process and one will usually find that an area of "blight" is responsible for the funding. Unfortunately, the areas of blight are many times everlasting, for once the blight is removed, the money stops.

This morning the Lake City Reporter, the Lake City mainstream print media and mouthpiece for Columbia County's infamous good ole' boys, ran the headline: "White nationalists' [sic] right to speak debated at City Council."

A look at the facts clearly shows there was no debate by the Council. However three citizens presented their thoughts.

Image of eye ball with copy: eye on the Lake City ReporterThe newspaper wrote in its lead paragraph and stated as fact:  "Two prominent members of the black community [Bowden, Warren] on Monday defended the right of a white nationalist to speak during a previous Lake City Council meeting, saying they fear that stepping on his right would curb their own to raise awareness for issues affecting local African-Americans."

While both Mr. Bowden and Mr. Warren opined about Mr. Wiggins right to speak his mind, neither opined the following: "... fear that stepping on his [Wiggins] right would curb their own to raise awareness for issues affecting local African-Americans."

That is not true. And that is race baiting.

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