Councilwoman's 'homegrown terrorist wearing blue uniforms' tweet angers officers
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte City Councilwoman, who faced criticism after making a Facebook post questioning the authenticity of the 9-11 attacks in New York City, is facing controversy again for a social media post.
LaWana Mayfield is facing backlash for a comment she tweeted in late March in connection with the deadly shooting of Stephon Clark by two police officers in Sacramento Police Department in California. Mayfield, a Democrat who represents west Charlotte, posted on Twitter saying: "Being Black in America under #45 has created homegrown terrorist wearing blue uniforms."
Clark was shot and killed in the backyard of his grandmother's Sacramento home after officers reportedly thought he was pointing a gun at them. It turns out Clark only had a cellphone.
While the tweet was posted in late March, it started gaining traction this week.
On Thursday, Mark Michalec, the president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), wrote a letter to Mayfield regarding the post. In the letter, Michalec said that Mayfield needs to be held to a higher standard since she is a leader in the community.
"Being the President of Charlotte Mecklenburg FOP Lodge #9 and a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer for almost twenty-four years I understand that I am held to a higher standard than other citizens," Michalec wrote in the letter. "My actions AND words are critically analyzed every single minute of my day. You need to be held to just as high of a standard as I am. You were elected as a City of Charlotte leader."
Michalec said his organization has been "working tirelessly" to work with the Charlotte City Council to work on improving CMPD officers' compensation and benefits. "With the release of this statement by you, it takes away from the focus that we have worked on so hard to bring forward," Michalec said in regards to Mayfield's tweet.
The FOP president questioned Mayfield, asking her whether she was labeling all peace officers as terrorists. "If so, you are also classifying all those Peace Officers, their parents, spouses, children, and relatives as terrorists," Michalec said. "To say the least, you have upset the entire law enforcement community on this ridiculous statement. We are a family and when offended, we are all offended."
Michalec said he had heard about the councilwoman's tweet while heading back from participating in the National Peace Officer's Memorial Service in Washington, D.C. He said it was a time to focus on peace officers who "gave their lives for the citizens, community, and Country."
Michalec concluded his letter by asking Mayfield whether she'd be interested in attending a membership meeting. He says his organization holds meetings on the first Tuesday of every month. The next meeting will be held on June 5 at 6 p.m., Michalec said.
Matt Blaich, who is a CMPD officer, said Mayfield's post "painted a target on every police officer's back; troopers and sheriffs alike." He added that he hopes the councilwoman will "do what she was elected to do which was to help people, represent the city as a respectable leader, and create a safe, enjoyable and affordable city to live in."
"I hope the rest of City Council, the Mayor, the state representatives, the Police Chief, Sheriff, and the Fraternal Order of Police, make it publicly known that they don't support her statements, and she should immediately step down," Blaich said.
Thursday morning, Mayfield tweeted a response to the controversy around the March tweet. She shared a statement from SAFE Coalition NC.
"@lawanamayfield comments are a statement of fact. There are police that terrorize our community," SAFE Coalition NC tweeted. "Ask the Charlotte victims that have settled lawsuits against the city. Didn't the county just oust a sheriff over 287g? Why do you think we fight 4 Police Accountability? Terror."
Mayfield added that she is a strong supporter of the police department.
"I have and continue to be one of the strongest supporters of law enforcement but I will NOT turn a blind eye to corruption, assaults, and the killings of unarmed black & brown people," Mayfield tweeted. "If you are offended by my comments and not the situation YOU need to re-evaluate."
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, CMPD Police Chief Kerr Putney said "it's highly disappointing" that he has to respond to Mayfield's tweet.
"Shouldn't have to waste my time talking about something like that," Putney said. "All I say is...I love this country because we all have the protection of the first amendment. I love this country because of that, but I'll tell you that with every statement you make you're responsible for and people should hold you responsible for that."
When reporters asked Putney whether he thought the councilwoman should step down, he replied by saying that's it not his position to take. "I'm merely a police chief who responds to a city manager who is also accountable to this community," he said. "Everybody should be accountable to this community."
Putney said his officers have been extremely professional in regards of the incident. "They went through some of the toughest times in my career a couple of years ago and they get through everything including this," Putney said. "When they go low, we go high. I trust our people to do just that."
"Whenever we're painted with a broad brush, it's offensive. It just is. Whenever your name calling, it's offensive, so obviously those are terms that are offensive to us," Putney said. "We've been talking about officers who win medals of merit for people their lives on the line and then to be put into a category like that - it's hard to stomach and there should always be community accountability.
Tariq Scott Bokhari, who is a council member, responded to Mayfield's tweet during a Facebook Live Thursday afternoon and said her comment is not reflective of the vast majority of the council member's perspective.
"They deserve better than that. They protect us on a daily basis. We need to support them. We need to lift them up," Bokhari said. "This tweet is counterproductive. It's not productive to that, in fact, it further divides us from having the types of conversations and come up with the solutions we need.
In relation to Mayfield's tweet, Bokhari argued that Charlotte residents don't have to feel divided in terms of holding officers accountable for their actions and also recognizing them for their hard work.
"We're one city. We don't have to pick one of those two positions to be in, either we support our police officers or we hold them accountable. Those are not mutually exclusive topics. We can do both of those," he said. "We can make sure we have the right protocols in place to make sure people aren't abusing their power, to make sure lethal use of force is used only when absolutely necessary, but we can also make sure we raise them up. We lift them up and recognize they put their lives on the line everyday - they deserve better then this. We can come together on this topic and not allow this to further divide us."
During the Facebook Live, Bokhari wanted to let officers know that the city of Charlotte has their backs. "Don't feel like this is the sentiment of the community. Don't feel like this is the sentiment of the city council cause I personally believe that it's not," he said. "Don't let this touch your morale. Don't even give it another thought."
Councilman Braxton Winston said having the right to the first amendment comes with responsibility, especially for public leaders. "With free speech comes responsibility, and especially if you're in public office and a leader," Winston said.
Julie Eiselt, who is another councilwoman, said she would like to start a conversation regarding a new social media policy for council members. "I'd love to have that conversation. People have different views of what's in their right to say and not say, and when to say it," she said.
Thursday evening, Mayfield took to Twitter, again, in her own defense posting the definition of a terrorist and blaming the media for a "false narrative."
She then tweeted a link to an article in International Business Times which pulled data to show that black men were more likely to be fatally shot by police officers than any other race. The article was written shortly after CMPD released videos in the deadly shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte police officer.
She then added, "When we as a community are READY to talk about the real impacts of slavery, poverty, red-lining, block-busting, policing, white-flight and gentrification we can start preparing ourselves for the real dialogue around Reconciliation. #NeverFeartheTruth."
In April, Mayfield made a social media post questioning whether the 9-11 terrorist attacks were real and said she was "still waiting for someone to produce pieces of the alleged plane."
An online petition asking for her resignation was created and received more than 1,500 signatures. The petition cites "shame" and "disgrace" that has been brought upon herself and the city of Charlotte as the reason for the request of her resignation.
"No I'm not going to resign. I'm going to continue fight because my work speaks for itself," Mayfield said.
She urged those calling for her resignation to have conversations about issues taking place in the community and vote for their local leaders.
"Heck I would call for the resignation for a number of people. There have been elected officials here that have made comments regarding all black people and saying the most negative things that sit on the county commission but yet they consistently get re-elected," Mayfield said.
Mayfield says the post was a piece of her thoughts on 9-11 and she stands on the belief of freedom of speech and the freedom of opinion. Moving forward, she says she will continue to share her thoughts and ask in-depth questions.
"We have stopped asking questions and I am concerned about that. I do not have to villanize you for asking a question whether I agree with you or not," said Mayfield. "I will always stand on the foundation of Freedom of speech. That also means freedom of opinion."
The post which has received over 1,000 comments and has since been edited from its original wording, Mayfield says, was not intended to question the planes or the number of lives that were lost.
"I am still waiting for someone to produce pieces of the alleged plane that opened the doors for U.S. citizens to lose all privacy rights (from the conspiracy theorist in me)," Mayfield said in the original post.
As an elected official Mayfield says there is a responsibility to own up to mistakes and apologizes "for the hurt that may have been caused..."
Although she says the amount of attention the post has gained surprised her, she has received support from families impacted by 9-11 who have unanswered questions.
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