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'In no way did my comments intend to be disrespectful': DeKalb Mayor clarifies Sunday statement on looters

DeKALB – DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith has issued a second statement clarifying his comments regarding looters which broke into several DeKalb businesses Sunday evening following a peaceful protest spurred by the death of George Floyd.

The protest and the looting appears to be unconnected.

In response to the looting, Smith told the Daily Chronicle Sunday that he “would not hesitate to put the hammer down” and declare a citywide curfew if necessary to deter further unrest. He also used the term “thugs” in reference to the looters, and said he would “prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

On Monday shortly before noon, Smith clarified his comments in a statement sent to area media, and said he misspoke out of anger after seeing the destruction caused by the looting in DeKalb.

“I have been made aware that some of what I said to media inquiries on Sunday evening were viewed as insensitive and hurtful, particularly my use of the word ‘thugs’,” Smith said. “In no way did my comments intend to be disrespectful. Following hours of watching some destructive behavior, and then traveling throughout our community to view its aftermath, I was mad. Especially so to those very few who chose to channel their anger in an unlawful way.”

“It was disappointing to see some of what occurred Sunday, following the very peaceful vigil and march on Saturday,” Smith continued. “I was so very proud of the City of DeKalb that day, which exhibited in a peaceful way what people were expressing following the tragedy of George Floyd. I regret if any of what I expressed on Sunday was viewed as insensitive or disrespectful.”

In a Facebook post, Ward 5 city Alderman Scott McAdams responded to residents urging neighbors to call Smith. He said he spoke with Smith on the phone about his statement.

“I cannot see inside his heart or mind but my experience working with him suggests this was a generational gaffe and not intended to demean,” McAdams said. “He was not aware that ‘thug’ has become a dogwhistle but he’s sensitive to the concerns people have regarding the tone his statement is setting.”

Smith called for DeKalb to celebrate diversity.

“The City of DeKalb prides itself on the inclusivity that most citizens embrace,” he said. “We should continue to celebrate our diversity. Correspondingly, my responsibilities to maintaining public safety will continue to be foremost in my mind. I invite all citizens to join me in maintaining the peace and safety to which we are so accustomed in DeKalb.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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