CORALVILLE — Mayor John Lundell and other Coralville City Council member on Friday condemned fellow council member Tom Gill for saying at a council meeting this week that Black Lives Matter protesters are “a bunch of criminals.”
“His comments were offensive to me and the other members of the City Council,” Lundell wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “They in no way reflect the beliefs or values of the Council, me or our staff.”
Gill made the comment at a council work session Tuesday evening.
“You’re probably wondering why I’ve been so volatile tonight,” Gill said, as reported by the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “It’s because of BLM. And BLM, to a lot of people, is a great organization, but BLM to me is a bunch of criminals, and I have zero tolerance for criminals. Eighty percent of the town doesn’t give a damn about what you are talking about — they are fed up.”
Gill said he thought Coralville had an excellent police department, “but we’ve got council people who want to create issues.”
At the time of Gill’s remarks, the council was reviewing Coralville police procedures and its effort to collect data on traffic stops.
The council has been looking at steps it can take to advance equity and reduce racial profiling in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.
Lundell, a city council member since 2003 and mayor since 2015, wrote on Facebook that he has heard from many community members who found Gill’s comments troubling.
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“While Mr. Gill’s comments temporarily interrupted the progress in conducting our review, the City Council and I are committed to this review and resulting improvements related to racial inequities within our city,” Lundell said.
Gill did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but in an interview with the Press-Citizen, he said he wasn’t calling the whole Black Lives Matter group criminals, but that graffiti on Kinnick Stadium and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics dissuaded him from taking the group’s calls for police reform seriously.
Gill, a dentist, has served on the council for most of the past 30 years. His term ends in 2021.
Council member Mitch Gross called the comments racist.
“I’ve not heard from constituents on an issue as much as I’ve heard in 48 hours on the racist comments my colleague made,” he said. “And the comments that I’m hearing from constituents and citizens are words of encouragement or support as well as words of shared disgust and contempt at what was said.”
Council member Meghan Foster said she was disappointed in Gill’s comments.
“They are not reflective of the opinion of the mayor, a majority of the council or a majority of the community,” Foster said in an email. “The mayor and council are fully committed to moving forward on making Coralville a more inclusive place. This setback will not hinder our progress.”