Salem city councilor shares violent, racially charged video; activist demands he resign
Salem City Councilor Daniel Benjamin shared a violent, racially charged video on Facebook Thursday, and now a local activist is calling for him to step down.
The video shows several African-American people being run over by vehicles.
Benjamin apparently did not shoot the footage himself.
In one scene, ominous music plays as a crowd gathers on a street. Suddenly a car plows into them.
The video then launches into a series of collisions between vehicles and groups of people.
The post includes a description from conservative blogger, Ron Dwyer, saying, "As this video shows people are starting to get tired of the Black Lives Matter bullies blocking the roadways."
"It's very indecent when it comes from public officials," Teressa Raiford told KATU regarding the video.
She's lead organizer for Don't Shoot Portland, an organization she claims is the most active Black Lives Matter group in Oregon.
"I think it's sickening and it's pretty much disgusting. You're promoting racial intimidation and harassment and possibly murder," Raiford said. "He needs to resign ... Ask him to resign or just go ahead and get done with him."
Salem Mayor Anna M. Peterson said she's horrified by the video.
"It actually made my stomach churn when I could see people actually being mowed down on purpose," Peterson said.
She told KATU she talked with Benjamin Monday afternoon.
"I told him that I was disappointed and shocked at the video and I suggested that he take it down," Peterson said. "We're striving hard to let people in the community know that the city of Salem stands firmly beside the civil rights of every person in this city."
Benjamin told a KATU reporter off-camera the post was on his personal Facebook page and although it was public, anyone who doesn't like it can unfriend him.
He also said it has nothing to do with race and, "To infer I'm a racist is actually racist."
"I think that's hogwash and we all know it," Raiford said, regarding Benjamin's response. "It is promoting racism."
"I'm just extremely disappointed," Peterson said late Monday afternoon, explaining that she wasn't sure if Benjamin would face any action from the city.
She later emailed KATU saying the city attorney told her an elected city councilor can only be removed if they're convicted of a crime or they don't show up to work and don't communicate with city officials for 30 days.
"That being said," Peterson wrote, "according to our Council rules, the City Council does have the right to sanction a councilor if their 'actions reflect poorly on the city' or if they don't conduct themselves 'appropriate to the dignity of the office.' The City Council can pass a resolution publicly censuring a City Councilor. Further, the mayor can remove the councilor from all Council sub-committees ... I will talk with Councilor Benjamin about the inappropriate item. His response with determine my next steps."
In the original post, Dwyer writes, "Video courtesy of Devious Keely. Give her page a like."
Regarding the footage, Keely told KATU, "It was passed to me from friends of mine that I just put together in a mash-up. A lot of it is from news feeds like local stations such as yourself. The music is something I also do not own. I have noticed it's being re-purposed into things I never meant it to mean. This wasn't about BLM (Black Lives Matter), or anything with Trump; just people not understanding that blocking roadways is 1) Illegal in most states without a permit, and 2) Dangerous and something that one should not do."
UPDATE: Nearly 24 hours after KATU aired the original story about the post, Benjamin wrote an apology on his City Council Facebook page. Here's his statement in full:
"I would like to issue an apology regarding a video that I shared on my personal Facebook page. My intention by sharing that video was to bring awareness that people were being killed in the streets of our cities... and I do not condone either side in regards to the violence that has been perpetrated on innocent people. I feel the same as everyone else when I saw the video I was appalled of the brutality being exerted on people across the country. I had not heard of these incidences that were transpiring from the mainstream media. Although I do not agree with the author of that video my intention was to share the video and hopes to bring a solution before it got worse. It is to be understood that that was the only source that I had for video. I had no other choice but to share... I regret not posting that this was simply unacceptable in a free Society. Myself as well as the City of Salem take great care and treating everyone equally.
It is also to be understood that I have a multicultural family. I have a beautiful wife who was born in Korea. My sister married a gentleman from African American descent. My sister-in-law is from El Salvador and her husband is Jewish. I just wanted to bring some perspective to this matter and that I truly apologize for any harm this may have caused.
My intention was to bring awareness to the situation NOT positive reinforcement of the Deeds committed in that video."