Larry Brown, an Allen County, Indiana councilman, has apologized after he called Black Lives Matter protesters “uneducated” and bemoaned that they “breed” and vote.
“My comments in regards to protesters breeding was wrong, and totally out of line,” Brown told local CBS affiliate WANE. “For that I apologize.” He added, though, that angry constituents seemed unaware that the County Council enjoys only fiscal responsibility, and has no legislative or executive authority.
He made the offensive comment at a Thursday meeting, which was filmed, while expressing his frustration with emails from constituents threatening to vote council members out of office.
Allen County is in the northeast part of the state, very close to both the Ohio and Michigan borders. It includes the city of Fort Wayne, the second largest in the state. It has recently been the site of frequent protests, as nationwide anger over the police killing of George Floyd boils over.
“I personally think there’s an underlying motivation beyond what we’re seeing, but that’s my opinion,” Brown said at the meeting. “I guess my concern is that somehow we, our ranks don’t get infiltrated, and there’s an effort to separate us — we do a really good job of putting aside race, religion and politics and all that.”
The Allen County Council is made up of six Republicans and one Democrat. The Democrat, also president of the local NAACP chapter, Shiela Curry-Campbell, agreed that she liked when the council acted together, but that it’s imperative that they “go out there and support these young people.”
Brown said that he “absolutely will not participate” in the protests. Curry-Campbell cut across him, saying that she will and has. He said that there’s a “fine line” between a peaceful and violent protest, and that stopping traffic is illegal.
Councilman Ken Fries, also the former county sheriff, interjected with a comparison of the protesters to his children, saying that when his children break something or do something wrong, they get “a spanking.”
“The African American community has been getting a spanking for a long time,” Curry-Campbell retorted, saying that though the protesters may not be using their anger “in the best way,” “these kids are out there for a reason. They are angry.”
“At what?” Fries asked incredulously.
“They are angry about the criminal justice system and the disparity,” Curry-Campbell said.
Brown tried to pull the increasingly heated conversation back to his point.
“We’re all being threatened with votes,” he said. “As uneducated as they are, obviously, on local government, they do vote. And, unfortunately, they also breed. But um, they do vote, and they’re gonna be an uneducated voter.”
Council President Joel Benz jumped in, saying that the meeting was “not the format to address that” and the meeting was quickly adjourned.
Benz, who did not respond to TPM’s request for comment, later told WANE that the backlash from Brown’s comments was “unprecedented.”
“We’ve always had public record but our society has changed pretty significantly in the last few months,” Benz said. “People are attuned to what’s going on and people are paying attention, and people are really tense and on edge.”
Kevin Knuth, a lifelong Fort Wayne resident and former Allen County Democratic Party chairman, told TPM that he’s never seen anything like the current political activism.
“This type of protesting is not common here at all. Politically speaking, we are an incredibly red area,” he said. “Obviously, the George Floyd case has struck a nerve across our country.”