Kerfuffles certainly aren’t new at City Council meetings anymore, but the one June 18 between Pat Napoleon and Wes Bellamy jolted awake anyone who may have been dozing during public comments.
Napoleon is the founder of Rise Charlottesville, and has been collecting signatures to remove those on council last year who voted to remove Confederate statues, including current councilors Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin and Bellamy.
She needs 1,580 signatures—10 percent of votes cast in the 2015 election—to file her petition, and she told council she has more than 1,500 signatures. Napoleon blamed council for what happened August 12, and said it was the worst thing that ever occurred in Charlottesville.
That’s a remark Bellamy took issue with. He called her back to the dais and said he found that comment “absolutely repulsive” when people were “literally sold here,” enslaved and lynched.
“Wes Bellamy pulled an ambush on me,” says Napoleon. “That was quite a shock. I didn’t expect that.”
It was another David Rhodes moment. Rhodes, who came before council September 5 to suggest a compromise on the statue situation, had walked away from the podium when Bellamy said, “You left your hat, and when you get your hat, take that compromise with you.”
Napoleon previously has called that interchange “disgusting.” Bellamy’s response to those who objected was, “My question is why the oppressed always have to compromise.”
After the June 18 meeting, Napoleon said public comment before council was “intimidating” and “a guy was flipping the bird at me.”
Says the former teacher, “I’m not used to being in situations where people are so disrespectful. I’m a senior citizen.” She also says she was disappointed that none of the other councilors said anything in her defense.
Bellamy is unapologetic. “Whenever black folks decide to speak up, it’s disrespectful.” He says he didn’t use foul language, and that Napoleon blaming City Council for killing someone without mentioning the people who came here and actually did kill people was “absolutely abhorrent.”
Napoleon is the second person to petition for Bellamy’s removal from council. The first, Jason Kessler, was unsuccessful.
Says Bellamy, “That’s the beauty of our community and our democracy—you can file a petition.”
Says Napoleon, “I got calls last night from more people” who want to collect signatures for the petition.