KENNETT SQUARE—A resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s attacks on congresswomen of color, immigrants and asylum seekers never made it to a vote Tuesday night.
Council voted 4-2 to scrap a vote on the resolution soon after the meeting started. Counselors Peter Waterkottte and Brenda Mercomes voted for council to vote on the resolution. Residents who attended the meeting were split on the issue.
“I for sure do not support the things that (Trump) has put out into the world,” said Counselor LaToya Myers. “We should be talking about some of the things we can do to dismantle some of the things (Trump) said. “ But I don’t want this to be a feel-good vote. This does nothing for my neighbors who live next to me who are hurting over the things he says.”
Council President Doug Doerfler told the crowd he was hesitant to put the resolution on the agenda, but he said there was enough public support to do so.
“When we speak of condemning, we are going down a very slippery slope,” Doerfler said. “If you are at the point where you want to consider condemning somebody, it’s not going to make things better. It’s going to rile and it’s going to create more divisiveness.”
The resolution under consideration was similar to one already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Wording of the resolution “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘‘go back’’ to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as invaders, and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants or those who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.”
Counselor Etahan Cramer said the resolution is very partisan because it was passed by 240 members of Congress, only four of whom are Republican.
Counselor Lorenzo Merino, who is Hispanic, said he agrees with wording on the resolution, but questioned whether it would have any real impact.
“I do condemn the things this president said, but at the same time, I ask myself what would this eventually do,” Merino said. “Am I just stirring the pot, creating more anger?”
But Mercomes said council should take a stand against hatred coming from the White House.
“To take a stand against this speech is immediate,” she said.” The things we heard are blatant, they are ugly and I would be remiss if I didn’t try to do something,” she said. “This (resolution) is taking a stand for this community, and I want to make it known that at least I tried to do something.”
Waterkotte said he was disturbed by Trump’s words.
“We live in a town of 6,200 people, and in my heart I have a hard time with not saying something or doing something for the 50 percent of our community that is Latino,” he said. “The things that (Trump) said should never be said about anybody.”
Some residents were happy that council scotched the vote, others were not.
“There has been a reaction in this town just because you put this on the agenda,” said John Thomas, a former councilman. “People have been calling and saying they will not come to the Mushroom Festival and will not come to Kennett Square because of this. It’s a hate-filled country right now, with people trying to get Trump out. We are the only small town in Chester County that would even put this on the agenda.”
Luis Tovar, who is Hispanic and who heads up the Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs in Kennett, said Trump’s words cannot go unchecked.
“Failure to do anything is not taking us in the right direction,” he said. “It’s not on the agenda this evening, but we need some action. This is so important. If someone is allowed to be abusive, they will continue to do it, and get more followers.”
Jesse Cocks, a former councilwoman who has fought for social reform and has been involved in many non-violent protests for equality, said the resolution would have let the people of Kennett Square know they condemn Trump’s hate speech.
“This (resolution) is all about condemning hate speech,” she said.
Charla Watson said council should have let the matter come to a vote so residents could see where their counselors stand on the issue. She said it’s a way of taking action, which brings about change, similar to the change made in Kennett Square in the 1960s.
“There are people who are influenced by (Trump’s) comments,” she said. “This (resolution) is a way of saying we are not going to have anyone speak racist comments, either from this area or the White House.”
Wayne Braffman, a former councilman who is active with the Kennett Area Democrats, said he hopes council decides to take up the resolution in the near future.
“The audience for this resolution is the kids who are being tormented at school and told to go back home, and the parents of those kids. This was never about politics. It is about democracy. Whatever goes on in Washington, that kind of speech has no home in Kennett Square. I don’t’ care who you are, a Republican, Democrat or Independent, this resolution does not condemn the man, this resolution condemns his words. This is maybe the most important local issue of our generation.”
Even if council passed the resolution, it would have been largely symbolic. Resolutions are limited to a specific issue or event. They are neither intended to be permanent nor to be enforceable. Nor do they carry the weight of court opinions.