Accusations of Charlottesville Racism at City Council Meeting

January 7, 2013

An unexpected outburst filled with accusations of racism filled Charlottesville City Council chambers Monday night in the first meeting of 2013.

The back-and-forth jabs among members of the crowd during the public comment period have apparently stemmed a renewed discussion on race relations in Charlottesville.

The discussion began after two Charlottesville residents spoke out about panhandlers on the Downtown Mall, one accusing them of taking part in gang-like activity. Two other men, both of whom identified themselves as panhandlers, asked council not to support an ordinance banning them from the pedestrian walk.

"These people have a right to exist, and if you do away with the ability for people to sit or lay on the mall, as is one of the provisions in what you guys were proposing, that not only affects the homeless population but anybody else," said Charlottesville resident Bailee Hampton, who spoke to council following the comments.

"When things are said in a way that casts aspersions on people along lines of race, I think it needs to be called out, and I appreciate you calling that out," councilor Dave Norris said in response to Hampton.

There was no scheduled discussion of panhandling on the agenda Monday night. Councilor Kathy Galvin said the debate, which has been the topic of conversation for years with council, is worth looking into even further.

"I think it's time for us to get another round of input from the public, as well as get some examples about how the communities have looked at this in a very fair and even way," she said.

While the public comments spurred a brief conversation among council about delving more into the issue, which not all councilors seemed supportive of, no further discussions have been scheduled.

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