Newly sworn in councilperson Kris Burnett says condemning Trump’s racism should not exclude the city from badly needed federal funding
JAISAL NOOR: After swearing a record eight new members, the Baltimore City Council didn’t waste any time. JACK YOUNG: This resolution is adopted. AUDIENCE:JAISAL NOOR: The City Council passed a resolution condemning Donald Trump’s bigotry. RYAN DORSEY: Trump routinely made wrongheaded statements about African-Americans in the US. Here in Maryland, he referred to youths in Baltimore as having, “No spirit.” JAISAL NOOR: The resolution comes just before the President-elect’s visit to Baltimore Saturday to attend the annual Army-Navy football game at M&T Bank Stadium. The Real News will be livestreaming the protest organized against Trump’s visit beginning at 11am. Newly sworn-in Third District Councilperson, Ryan Dorsey, spoke out in favor of the measure. RYAN DORSEY: One of the… I think the most important words in this resolution is the term “scapegoat.” And I want to stand here today to affirm that I’m proud to stand with members of Baltimore City Council in this term — as progressives and individuals in a body, willing to move policy in the right direction, that the hardships we face as a country are not based on minority groups, but based on policies that we can move forward to improve the quality of life for Baltimore City, Maryland, and the United States. And we are a body of leaders in this room, and I’m proud to be here today. JAISAL NOOR: But the move just came days after newly sworn-in mayor, Catherine Pugh said she would work with the Trump Administration. CATHERINE PUGH: Because when he talks about infrastructure needs of an urban environment, I say, “That’s our city.” WOMAN: Yes. CATHERINE PUGH: When he talks about creating jobs and opportunities, I say, “That’s our city.” JAISAL NOOR: We questioned bill co-sponsor, District A Councilperson Kris Burnett, about criticism over the measure, saying it could undercut Pugh’s attempt to work with Trump. KRISTERFER BURNETT: I think it’s important. And I mean, you know, no one is above critique. If you say you’re about improving urban centers, if you say you like to build things and you ran on, you know, an infrastructure candidate, then put your money where your mouth is, and help build our cities out. And so, I think that critique is a little bit unfair. I mean, you know, just because we’re not okay with divisive, racist rhetoric, it doesn’t mean that you don’t invest in a city like Baltimore that certainly needs it. I think we can do both. JAISAL NOOR: We reached out to the Mayor’s spokesperson who says she does not support the council resolution, and reiterated her plan to ask Trump for federal assistance. We asked Burnett to elaborate on why he supports the measure. KRISTERFER BURNETT: Well, I co-sponsored the resolution in support of what was, you know, proposed — which was, you know, there was a lot of divisive rhetoric during the campaign trail by the Trump campaign, as it related to people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, Muslims — I mean, pretty much the floor kept getting lower and lower and, you know, who was next? Who was going to be, you know, something terrible said about them or their culture? And that’s just not presidential, it’s not what this country is supposed to be about. And, especially, you know, as an organizer and an activist, for me, it was very troubling to see; not only his election, but also just, you know, what went on and what will likely continue over the next four years. So, it was important for us as a council to set a tone that, you know, this is not something that represents us and our values. And, you know, it was important that when he’s coming to town this weekend to know that this is not something that’s okay here, and we don’t support that. And as a legislative body, it’s important that we, you know, make it clear to the people that got us elected, that this is not okay and we’re not going to stand on the sidelines while, you know, things are just tossed around about the people that we, frankly, represent here in Baltimore. We have a lot of really diverse communities, and a lot of people who were deeply offended and hurt. And especially children. I mean, some of the stories I heard were from teachers. And, you know, after the election kids coming in crying and having to have social workers on hand to speak to the young people, because they were just so distraught — immigrant children concerned about their families being deported. And it’s in a lot of, you know, bullying and rhetoric that was shared on the campaign being said by other children. And, you know, so they’re devastated. You know, especially for young people who’ve only known Obama. You know, an eight-year-old, that’s what they know. And to see something like this is very shocking. It was shocking to all of us. And it was important that we sent that message. MAN: JAISAL NOOR: And so, it’s more than just rhetoric, right? Because what you were saying, like his words have empowered white nationalists, they have empowered racists. There’s been thousands of instances of harassment around the country, and hate crimes. So, it’s really more than just rhetoric, when he’s appointing people like Steve Bannon and, you know, his choice for Labor Secretary is a millionaire fast food CEO who is against raising the minimum wage. KRISTERFER BURNETT: Yeah, I mean, look, these things, you know, are dog-whistle politics. I mean, you know, you say one thing and it triggers. And I think folks, like you said, white nationalists do feel empowered now. And we’ve seen an uptick in violence toward people of color, towards Muslims, towards the LGBT community since his election. And I think that’s something that, you know, I’m fearful of, but I believe it will continue. Because I think what you hit on is very important, that this rhetoric will translate into policy. And so, when we talk about the impact that, you know, putting in a Ben Carson, for example, to run the Housing Department, what that may mean for people who live in public housing and affordable housing when, you know, he said on the campaign trail that, you know, that’s an area that he would cut if he was elected. So, now he has the opportunity to actually do that. And when we talk about, you know, what that means for a low-income family who struggles with stable housing and the homeless community that’s trying to get into housing. I mean, this can have a devastating impact on our city, especially a city like Baltimore where there’s thousands of homeless people every night that we know about. And then, young kids who are, you know, couch surfing and just trying make… you know, trying to figure out where they’re going to sleep at next. And so, this will certainly be something that, you know, us as a council will have to be mindful of. I mean, it’s going to impact us as legislators and how we — you know, it’s changed our agenda a little bit. There are some things that we’re going to have to move to the forefront now to protect our communities, so that we don’t really feel the brunt here in Baltimore. But I think we’re all going to have to tighten our belts, because at the end of the day, these things will translate into real-life policy changes, real-life harm to people. And so, that was also why it was important for us to say, “Look. We’re condemning this. This is not okay.” JAISAL NOOR: For our full interview with newly sworn-in District A Councilperson, Kris Burnett, go to therealnews.com. This is Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.