GREENSBORO, N.C. — A heated city council meeting took place in Greensboro Tuesday night. This in the wake of this weekend’s protests for George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died at the hands of police.
As a response to the peaceful protests turned into riots in downtown Greensboro, Mayor Nancy Vaughan imposed a citywide curfew that started Monday night. She took time in Tuesday’s meeting to shut down rumors that she mandated a curfew in order to solely help downtown businesses.
“If people want to make an equivalency that curfew was about property, I’m going to call BS on that. It has always been about safety,” Vaughan said.
While she said safety was at the forefront of that decision, figuring out how to rebuild downtown Greensboro is still a priority. And business owners whose stores were vandalized are going to need help.
“That doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to the destruction that was done to people’s life savings,” Vaughan said.
Councilmember Sharon Hightower, from District III, argued that the order in which people get help from the city is vital. She said if the council focuses too much on businesses and not enough on people, it can send the wrong message.
“I get what you’re saying mayor, but I think it’s in the message. Get fired up about all of it. Get fired up about every bit of it,” Hightower said.
She said dialogue about how to move forward, needs to happen immediately amongst themselves and between city leaders and the protestors.
For Councilwoman Goldie Wells, the protests calling for change are all too familiar.
“In the 60s, I saw all of the marches, the riots, but the marches were led by somebody,” she recalled.
Her father, civil rights activist Golden Frinks, marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King.
“He (her father) was known in North Carolina as the great agitator. He kept things going and marched for a lot of the rights that we have here in this state,” Wells said.
Wells said she understands keeping the livelihood of small businesses owners, but also knows the focus has to be on all of her constituents too.
“I think the next march, we ought to be right out there with them to show that we support. Because the discussion we had last night, we as nine members of the council, want to see things change.”
So, the question, is how do we go about allowing protesters a voice, while helping those whose businesses were damaged by looters?
“The details to work out are the total cost for doing this, how much financing the city could assume based on that cost,” said Nancy Hoffman, District IV councilwoman.
Wells agrees, action on both ends, needs to be taken soon in some way or another.
“I’m hoping that this time, there will be some system changes. Changes in policies that will make a change in the way we will operate in other countries,” she said.
No solid plans on how they are going to make changes, but the council members agreed, open dialogue is vital to this process; not only amongst them, but between their constituents.