Kentucky Mayor Bans Black Lives Matter Shirts in City Council Meetings

Woman says her sister had a “Sandra Bland” experience

Key Newsjournal Staff Report

Posted online July 6, 2016 5:15p

Stock image of Black Lives Matter t-shirt

Stock image of Black Lives Matter t-shirt

 Eddie Gooch, Mayor of Providence, KY, reportedly warned a Black woman, Patricia Darnes, not to wear a Black Lives Matter shirt again to any city council meeting.

Many Black residents attended the June 7 city council meeting to make complaints against an unnamed police officer alleging racial profiling and harassment.

In a KMOV news interview Darnes says that her sister feared for her life when she was stopped by a Providence policeman.

“He harassed my sister, basically a Sandra Bland moment,’’ said Darnes. “He pulled her out of the vehicle for no just cause, he falsified documents and harassed her.’’

Bland was a Black woman found dead in a Texas jail three days after a traffic stop where she was denied her right to know why she was stopped, was forced to the ground violently and threatened with tasing by a police officer.

The Journal-Enterprise newspaper reports that during a Providence City Council meeting on June 7, Mayor Eddie Gooch interrupted and chastised Darnes for wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt into the council chamber even before she could give remarks.  Mayor Gooch told the resident that if she wore the shirt again, she would be escorted out.

As reported by the paper, Mayor Gooch said, “That [Black Lives Matter] is a racist organization, and a racist sign, and you will not wear it back in these council chambers.”

Further, the paper reported that Mayor Gooch said, “Black lives only matter when they’re killed by a white police officer – All lives matter.”

Kentucky Human Rights Commission Executive Director John Johnson said the mayor’s remarks are most troubling to the commission.

“Mayor Gooch’s statements belie a profound misunderstanding of the “Black Lives Matter” public awareness concept, which arose in response to a growing number of African Americans who had been killed by police officers. Certainly all lives matter.  But if police are unfairly targeting black citizens for abusive treatment, including death, then no lives will be safe,” Johnson said.

Given the nature and seriousness of the allegations by citizens about police behavior based on race, color or ethnicity, the commission requested the U.S. Department of Justice to “investigate to determine if citizens’ rights have been violated in any way.”

In addition, Executive Director Johnson expressed the commission’s grave concern about the Providence mayor’s response to the citizens’ concerns.

The letter signed by Johnson said: “One of the mandates by law to be carried out by the commission is to encourage fair treatment, foster mutual understanding and respect, and discourage discrimination against any racial or ethnic group or its members.

“Any holder of an elected or appointed governmental office such as a mayor shares the grave responsibility to help the state stand by such a mandate for the peace and safeguarding of our society…

“The mayor’s interactions with residents at the city council meeting on June 7 and his statements about “Black Lives Matter” do not instill confidence that the civil and constitutional rights of the residents of Providence will be protected.”

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the state government authority that enforces civil rights laws, which discrimination illegal.

`Providence Police Chief Brent McDowell told KMOV news that to his knowledge there has never been a Black person killed by police in their city and that there was no evidence of racial profiling there.

The Chief stated that in 2015 there were 187 white arrests and 44 Black (23% of arrests). To date in 2016, 107 white arrests and 30 Black (28% of arrests). Blacks make up just 4% of the town’s population which is about 13,000.