If you didn’t see the video on YouTube of Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart saying that President Obama is not American, let me tell you this- it’s pretty scary. I quote him: ”I don’t think he’s American, personally.”
It’s scary that the mayor of a city at the forefront of technological and intellectual development is subscribing to an unsubstantiated and xenophobic rumor. Obama was born in Hawaii. He possesses a legal birth certificate. And finally, the announcement of his birth was published in a local newspaper.
It’s clear to me that Mayor Schweighart is operating at the radical fringes of the Republican Party. That’s why he was at a Champaign Tea Party Event. Rather than representing the fiscally conservative values on local issues that he was most likely elected on, he has chosen to participate in an extremist group.
In addition to spreading false rumors about Barack Obama’s citizenship, Tea Party members have attacked members of congress with racial slurs, harassed a supporter of Healthcare Reform who has Parkinson’s, and compared the Obama Administration to a Nazi regime.
Mayor Schweighart isn’t an idiot. He’s smart and politically calculating. And that’s what’s scary about him-he runs the City of Champaign like a police state. He’s a former officer himself.
Last year, police were dispatched to the Safe Haven tent community near the Catholic Worker house to photograph and harass homeless residents after Gateway Studios closed its doors. And after Kiwane Carrington, an unarmed teen attempting to enter a family friend’s home (where he was welcome), was fatally shot by Officer Daniel Norbits, no formal apology was issued by Mayor Schweighart or Chief RT Finney of the Champaign Police. Instead, Officer Norbits and Chief Finney both returned to work. Chief Finney should heed calls from C-U citizens and community groups for his resignation.
If Champaign ever wants to be an innovative environment, it needs to move past this culture of racism. In order to do this, we must clean house and elect a mayor and city council that is receptive to the community.