Petition to oust McKenzie growing
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Mar 06, 2013 | 1537 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP is seeking sympathizers and empathizers willing to stand alongside the black community in its campaign to shame Cleveland City Councilman Charlie McKenzie into resigning.

The organization is calling on ministers, businessmen and concerned residents — of all races and cultures — to help get the message out that it is not OK to disparage the minority population.

Chapter President Lawrence Armstrong said such language is not about one race, but is about the human race.

He said government should be for all people regardless of race, color or creed. In a community meeting Tuesday night at the College Hill Recreation Center, he asked what kind of message is sent when government officials can make offensive statements about one segment of their constituency and not be held accountable?

The local branch of the NAACP began a petition drive Saturday asking registered voters in all five districts to support McKenzie’s resignation from office due to the alleged use of racial slurs. Bradley County deputies Kristi Barton and Anthony Liner filed complaints in January stating McKenzie used hateful words and stereotypical language describing minorities.

“McKenzie’s use of such words such as ‘coons’ and ‘n------’ in reference to African Americans, while on duty is intolerable and for him to continue serving on the Cleveland City Council is incomprehensible,” the local chapter of the NAACP stated in a press release. “In less than one week, the organization has organized and obtained hundreds of signatures of registers throughout the city.”

McKenzie has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations since they surfaced Jan. 31, but refers to a prepared statement he read during the Feb. 11 Council meeting. He said then he "has and will continue to serve every citizen equally, no matter what color or race.

"And — if — I ever said something to offend anyone — I apologize," he said. "I don't think anyone can get their story straight. The first story I heard, I beat up a guy over at the sheriff's department. I've never arrested anybody in the last six months. I serve warrants. So, until somebody tells me something, I don't believe nothing."

McKenzie blames the controversy on politics. "… they've got an election coming up over there. And it's going to be a doozy of an election. One lies about the other, and the other lies about him."

Armstrong declined to say how many signatures were collected Saturday until the names are verified against the voter rolls. He said the goal is to present the petitions to the City Council on March 25.

“We cannot make him resign so we’re hoping to shame him into resigning,” Armstrong said.

In the meantime, he is asking concerned residents to attend the 3 p.m. voting sessions of the City Council on the second and fourth Monday of each month.

Though the target area for the petitions is District 1, he said signatures will be collected citywide to address dissatisfaction with 4th District Councilman David May, 5th District Councilman Dale Hughes, and At-Large Councilman George Poe. Those three councilmen voted against two motions presented Feb. 25 by 2nd District Councilman Bill Estes that asked the Council to censure McKenzie and to request his resignation. Vice Mayor Avery Johnson and At-Large Councilman Richard Banks joined Estes.

The NAACP and other concerned residents will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday to again canvas District 1. For information, call 423-650-0701.