The mayor of one Florida community is now the focus of attacks after he signed a proclamation to add his community to those that celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.
On Tuesday, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn signed the proclamation, which was requested by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, according to WINK, based in Fort Meyers, Florida. Florida marks the day as a paid holiday for state employees, as do Mississippi and Alabama.
The proclamation designates April 26 as “a time in which to honor the memories of those who sacrificed their lives in the War Between States.”
Guinn, who is white, was immediately criticized by Council President Mary Sue Rich, who is black, for honoring the Confederacy.
“I’m not proud of you doing a Confederacy proclamation standing up here in front of all these people in the city of Ocala. That turns my stomach. I don’t think you deserve to be the mayor of Ocala. I hope somebody runs against you,” she said.
Ocala City Councilwoman Mary Rich is speaking out. She was not happy that the mayor presented a proclamation for Confederate Memorial Day, during last nights’ council meeting. pic.twitter.com/pUdYPPb0j3
— Myrt Price (@MPriceWFTV) April 3, 2019
“When people say you are a member of the Ku Klux Klan, I’m beginning to believe them,” she added, referencing Guinn’s inclusion on a 2015 list of politicians that the hackivist group Anonymous said were Klan members. Guinn has long denied the assertion, Anonymous never provided proof.
Guinn was so stung by the comments he held a news conference the next day to forcefully deny the accusation.
“I am not — repeat, not — in the KKK,” Guinn said, according to WFTY. “I never have been. I never will be, and I despise and hate everything that organization stands for.”
Is it at all possible to disagree with someone without accusing them of being in the KKK? https://t.co/cjJGeKklZc
— Michael Yaffee (@PMOWfla) April 5, 2019
Although his action came at a time when many states and communities are re-evaluating symbols and celebrations linked to the Confederacy, Guinn also noted that he had issued similar proclamations in the past with no complaints.
Echoes of the fuss reached The Washington Post, which interviewed Guinn. During the interview, he called the resolution “simply a memorial for Confederate soldiers who were veterans.”
Guinn told the Post that in terms of the Civil War and slavery, “It was about more than just slavery.”
The Post report on Guinn then noted that he offered “an assertion that has been debunked by many historians.”
Guinn noted that a local group asked for the proclamation, which meant he either offended someone by signing it or offending someone else by not signing it.
“That’s the problem with our country. We worry about offending people too much. I haven’t done anything wrong by doing this proclamation, and I stand by it,” he said, adding that he and Rich have been at odds since he would not issue a proclamation in February declaring Ocala a “City of Peace,” as part of an effort promoted by the group Ollin Women International.
According to the Post, Guinn maintained that the founder of Ollin Women International, Manal Fakhoury, was a terrorism sympathizer.
According to a March 5 report in the Ocala Star-Banner, Guinn said Fakhoury believes in Sharia law and had demonstrated on behalf of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
On Tuesday night, Nancy Bowden and Judy Delk of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, accepted the proclamation.
“We would just like to thank you for the recognition of our Southern heritage and history and to honor those that so valiantly fought to protect their homeland, their South, our Dixie,” Bowden said, according to the Ocala Star-Banner.
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