PEORIA, IL -- With poise and razor sharp language Peoria City Council member-at-large Beth Akeson apologized, clarified and explained a couple or recent Twitter comments that some criticized as racist.
Her August 9 news conference in City Hall drew an overflow audience of activists and interested people, as well as the local news media. It soon became clear that some of the activists, who said they are members of the local Black Lives Matter group, were concerned with more than Akeson's unfortunate comments.
They want support from City Hall, some said. "Since we don't own homes down there (Southtown) we don't take care of it," one admitted. "Tell us where the money is," she said. "We're not asking for a handout."
Another said "nobody comes out to help our community."
The woman, a teacher, said "girls feel like our lives don't matter."
(My take here -- that's sad, but they should stop worrying about what others think and learn and achieve something.)
"You didn't validate how I felt," said one, responding to Akeson's detailed explanation, that when she criticized Black Lives Matter after the Dallas police shooting, it was because she saw people on television advocating violence against the police. She later learned that these were fringe characters who were not part of the group's platform, she said.
(My take -- has anyone seen the recent take down on "feelings" as opposed to facts on the John Oliver TV show? Facts win every time.)
Akeson,a Republican but liberal on some social issues, is a strong supporter of urban planning, historic preservation, and other measures that make a city desirable. She works for those goals, she said, but is only "one person out of 11" council members.
She criticized Peoria's "slum landlords" whose tenants may live in terrible conditions.
She had been supporting Donald Trump, she said. But since he lately went "off the rails," she likely will vote for the Libertarian candidate, she said.
She turned to Twitter to express her opinion about a Fox TV show, she said, though she watches all the TV networks, both liberal and conservative.
She had done 842 Tweets, but "nobody ever paid attention." Then a couple of Tweets went viral, drawing so many obscene and vulgar comments that she shut down the account, she said.
But it's not all bad. This an opportunity to talk about race and poverty, she said, and engage people "who feel like they are not heard."
She will hold a Town Hall meeting soon, she said, for more discussion. "Too many people are afraid to talk about these things."
Change is messy, she said. "I am willing to be one of the people that moves in the right direction....If you really want change, you suffer the consequences."
Here is a recording of the first hour of the news conference.
Here's the later version of the PJS story on the event.
-- Elaine Hopkins