By Elise Solé, Yahoo Lifestyle
A Florida mayor rebutted “ridiculous” accusations that he’s racist after approving a “Confederate Memorial Day.” The observance recognizes U.S. states that seceded in 1861 —the Confederate States of America” — and the soldiers who “sacrificed their lives,” who fought in part, to maintain slavery.
“For anybody to say that I’m a racist or a member of the KKK — that’s the most ridiculous thing that I’ve heard,” Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said in a Wednesday press conference, according to WFTV. “I am not — repeat not — in the KKK. I never have been. I never will be. And I despise and hate everything that organization stands for.”
The mayor approved a proclamation for the April 26th observance during a Tuesday City Council meeting upsetting some citizens, such as City Council President Mary Sue Rich. “I don’t think you deserve to be the mayor of Ocala,” Rich told Guinn on Tuesday, according to the Ocala Star-Banner. “I hope somebody runs against you because you’re coming up with more and more negative stuff.”
@CityofOcalaFL Mayor Kent Guinn says the accusations that he is in the #KKK are absolutely ridiculous. He says the proclamation for honoring #ConfederateDay is simply for honoring veterans. @MyNews13 pic.twitter.com/0blwUFvmiT
— Ken Ashlin (@ashlinphotos06) April 3, 2019
“I’m not proud of you doing a Confederacy proclamation,” Rich reportedly said. “That turns my stomach. And when people say you are a bit of a Ku Klux Klan, I’m beginning to believe it. The more I think about it, the madder and madder I get.”
KKK rumors have haunted the mayor since 2015 when the Twitter account @sgtbilko420 published a discredited list of names, Guinn’s included, alleging their membership in the white supremacy group. The account was misattributed to the “hacktivist” group Anonymous, which denied writing the list, soon after tweeting its own titled “Hoods Off.”
“I will tell you that it is an unequivocal lie that I have ever been, or will be, a part of that group,” Guinn said in 2015, reported the Ocala Star-Banner.
On Thursday, Rich told Yahoo Lifestyle of the observance: “It’s racist — we already have a Memorial Day to honor veterans. It’s history and there’s nothing we can do about it, but we don’t need it.” She says at the meeting, Guinn sarcastically told her: “Thank you for your kind remarks.”
Ocala City Councilwoman Mary Rich is speaking out. She was not happy that the mayor presented a proclamation for Confederate Memorial Day, during last nights’ council meeting. pic.twitter.com/pUdYPPb0j3
— Myrt Price (@MPriceWFTV) April 3, 2019
Avelia “Bert” Perkins, who runs The Bridges Project of Ocala/Marion County told Guinn on Tuesday that a Confederate Memorial Day is alienating. “The mayor approved a proclamation that romanticized a period in history that’s closely related to treason, as the Southern states fought to uphold slavery to produce their wealth,” Perkins told Yahoo Lifestyle.
Perkins said unlike Guinn’s past attempts to introduce the observance, which were public knowledge, the latest proclamation was written in private. “A few women who represented a small group of citizens approached the mayor and he issued it,” Perkins told Yahoo Lifestyle. “There was no opportunity to protest, as the proclamation was finished and framed by Tuesday.”
Nancy Bowden, the chapter president of a Confederate Memorial Day group, and Judy Delk reportedly accepted the proclamation. “We would just like to thank you for the recognition of our Southern heritage and history and to honor those that so valiantly fought to protect their homeland, their South, our Dixie,” Bowden told Guinn on Tuesday, according to the Ocala Star-Banner. Yahoo Lifestyle could not locate Bowden for comment.
According to CNN, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia observe the Confederacy each year. And on March 19, the Marion County Commission in Florida reportedly issued the proclamation.
When reached for comment by Yahoo Lifestyle, Guinn said, “ Thanks for the interest. I don’t have time to do it now.”
This article originally appeared in Yahoo Lifestyle.