Councillor Todd Taylor said he is weighing his options this week after what he deemed was a “character assassination” of him at the March 8 meeting – a meeting where student activists singled him out for voting against taking down the Columbus statue and giving his academic argument for doing so.
He said it’s time to stop such tactics on councillors and members of the community.
“I’ve spoken with the City Solicitor and City Manager about this,” he said. “They’re considering their options and I’m considering my options too. This is bullying. If someone does something or says something that doesn’t agree with this ideology, then it’s open season to come in and hurl racist accusations at me when they all know better.
“This type of assassinating people’s character when you disagree with them has to stop,” he continued. “It not the first time someone has gotten up at a City Council meeting to denounce me and it isn’t even the first time people have used kids to attack me. The last time they used kids against me, it cost me the election against Bob Bishop.”
Taylor – who is the lone Republican on the Council was one of two councillors targeted by activists in the Chambers on March 8. That confrontation at the Council lasted nearly three hours and stemmed from the Feb. 23 meeting where a vote was taken on removing the statue, and Taylor was one of two councillors that voted against it and he gave his reasons, he said, which were academic and based on his studies as a graduate student in the 1990s. The other councillor, Giovanni Recupero, is alleged to have taken matters much further – supposedly being disrespectful to the two teens making a presentation that night.
Taylor said he can understand why students came up to address the issue with him. However, Taylor said he was only respectful to the students, and he believes that he was singled out from the beginning.
“Just go back and look at the video record,” he said. “I was never at all disrespectful to these kids. I respected them and gave them respect when they spoke. Even the teacher didn’t mention me in her letter. I don’t blame the kids. Everyone has been 17 or 18 before…What really bothers me is the adults in the room trying to use these kids as tools. That has to stop and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that stop. I don’t want revenge, but I want people to understand what’s really going on here…We live in a diverse community and most of us are neighbors and a lot of us are friends. We don’t need people dividing us.”
Taylor said at the Feb. 23 meeting, he took in the arguments of the youth that were there – including Branden Garcia of the Youth Commission – and disagreed with their academic argument. He said while in graduate school in the 1990s, he studied Columbus and said he learned there are two sides to that academic argument. He recalled learning that there is some dispute over Columbus’s exploits, and that’s not something he invented, he said.
“I did study this and I was trying to get across that there is an academic argument that Columbus being responsible for genocide comes from a guy who wanted to take Columbus’s job,” said Taylor. “He wrote a letter to the king and queen of Spain…I said there are two sides to this and people have adopted one side of an academic argument here.”
Taylor said he feels like he was singled out by the students.
“When they came to speak, they singled me out for my race; and they called me a white supremacist,” he said. “When you defame a public figure you’re allowed to do that unless you do something you know is fake and you have malicious intent. I think both of these things fit in this situation. These kids that came from Boston, they know I’m not a white supremacist. There’s no way anyone can point to anything I’ve ever said or done and conclude I’m a white supremacist. It was solely meant for character assassination in my case, and it has to stop.”
Taylor concluded by saying there is a great misunderstanding by a lot of the young people involved that America is a place where you have to agree with them, or you will be attacked and destroyed.
He said he would like to see an America where opinions can be expressed without fear of reprisal – which is what he says happens to him all the time in the community and on the Council. “This is not nothing,” he said. “It was wrong and it was out of bounds.”