The mayor of Oregon City is under fire for his recent comments about police killings and systemic racism, as well as the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody.
“Not to nitpick but there were actually 10 unarmed black people killed by police nationally,” Mayor Dan Holladay said, according to a screenshot of the since-deleted comment on the community networking app Nextdoor.
“Of those 10, 6 were activley [sic] attacking officers in the other 4 officers are either under indictment or standing trial that’s 10 out of maybe 60 million blacks in the country? That is hardly an epidemic.”
The screenshot of the June 4 comment drew greater attention Friday when an administrator posted it to the 28,000-member Facebook group Oregon City Chit Chat for discussion. That certainly happened: over 750 comments as of Saturday morning — many of them criticizing his comments as tone-deaf and insensitive.
“You should step down,” said one man. “I’m being 100% serious. There is no room for this mentality from a purported ‘leader’ in any 21st century community anywhere in this country. Get out.”
“Honestly, he needs to be removed from office over this,” said Van W. McQueen, who was not alone in calling for a recall. “This isn’t about politics. This is about humans and morality.”
But Holladay also had supporters, as well as those who seemed understanding of and willing to accept his comments — if not totally in agreement with them.
“Dan is HUMAN, just like anyone else,” said Oregon City resident Chlôë Thompson. “Just because he happens to be a small city mayor doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to say what he believes or give his opinion, whether you believe with what he says or not. I don’t personally agree with what he said, but it’s HIS right, just like it’s mine and your right to disagree.”
According to the admin of OC Chit Chat, Holladay initially said he would comment on the post and explain his source, but left the group instead. He also declined comment to the Canby Now Podcast, and when asked to let us know if he changes his mind, texted “I wont.”
His source may have been a recent article in The Wall Street Journal by conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald, which cited FBI statistics showing nine unarmed blacks had been shot and killed by police in 2019, compared to 19 unarmed whites.
Or it may have been similar statements by conservative radio host Larry Elder, since he — like Elder — conflated fatal police shootings with the broader term “police killings.”
Police “shootings” would not include deaths due to excessive force or brutality such as those of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray or, for that matter, George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee against his neck for almost nine minutes. And, accurate or not, critics say the statistic glosses over the fact that young, black men are killed by police at disproportionately higher rates than other races — especially whites.
The term “unarmed” has also been scrutinized, as suspects carrying airsoft guns, pocket knives or even rocks may be considered “armed” for the purpose of these reports.
Holladay was similarly criticized — and praised — for recent, publicly available posts on his personal Facebook page, in which he stated, “I guess Portland moved directly to phase 4,” in apparent reference to the protests in that city, and questioned why “we can have protests, riots, looting and vandalism in Portland, Salem and Eugene,” but not city-sponsored fireworks on the Fourth of July.
“Asking for a friend ‘Uncle Sam,'” he quipped.
Oregon City itself has been the site of several straight days of peaceful demonstrations protesting systemic racism and excessive force by police. OCPD Chief Jim Band spoke out at the June 3 City Commission meeting, vowing to “resist complacency and continue to evolve practices to better serve our community.”
“This event (and others) drive me to make sure we at the police department do our very best,” Chief Band said, referring to the murder of Floyd. “We are committed to continuing our work to keep our community safe and welcoming for Black people and all People of Color.”
“Interesting considering what your mayor is saying,” said one of several commenters asking for a response to the comments by Holladay.
“The mayor is not speaking on behalf of the City Commission,” responded Commissioner Rachel Lyles Smith, “and unfortunately, we have no control over his statements.”
A group of concerned residents plans to meet Monday to discuss an organized effort to recall Mayor Holladay, members of that group told the CNP. They said they will appoint a chief petitioner and move forward from there.
They say they are planning to have to gather at least 2,500 signatures from registered voters in Oregon City. They will have 90 days once their prospective petition is filed.
Photos courtesy Unite Oregon City:
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