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Mississippi GOP condemns local official for racist comments, but he won’t resign

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Historical Confederate monuments are being taken down and defaced from protests over the death of George Floyd.

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JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi GOP issued a statement Wednesday condemning a republican supervisor who made racist remarks earlier this week disparaging Black people. 

Lowndes County Supervisor Harry Sanders said Monday that because Black people were “taken care of” during slavery, they were now “dependent” on society. Sanders doubled down on his comments Tuesday, saying, “Hell, it’s what I think.”

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Lucien Smith issued a statement on the Sanders’ comments Wednesday afternoon. 

“The remarks made by Supervisor Sanders do not represent the platform or values of the Mississippi Republican Party and I condemn them,” Smith said. “This is the time for our leaders to bring us together, not create division.”

Wednesday, Sanders told The Clarion Ledger of the USA TODAY Network that he would step down as board president if the majority of the five-member board voted him out. 

“I’m not going to step down, they can push me down if they want to, take me out if they want to, if they have three votes and want to do it, I’m going to object to it, I’m not going to argue but I’m not going to voluntarily step down, no.”

However, the votes to remove Sanders as president may not be there.

Fellow supervisor Trip Hairston issued a statement Wednesday calling, in part, for “immediate action” to remove Sanders as board president. Hairston also said, despite voting Monday not to relocate the monument, he is “ready to consider alternatives.” 

Sanders said he got a call from Hairston, informing him of his decision.

“I said, ‘If that’s what you wanna do, Tripp, that’s fine,” Sanders said. 

But Supervisor Leroy Brooks, who first made the motion to relocate the statue, said Sanders no longer being board president isn’t enough. Pointing to outrage in the community, Brooks again called for Sanders to resign. 

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“I’m not interested in serving with him or being around him with that racist kind of attitude toward Black people,” Brooks said. “Him not being board president, I’m not interested in that, he needs to go home.”

When pressed on if he would vote to remove Sanders as president, Brooks said he would abstain from voting. 

“I’m not even casting a vote,” he said. “I’m not going to be apart of that dynamic. It’s all or nothing for me.”

Of resigning, Sanders, who was reelected to a four-year term in November, said, “That’s not even a question, there’s no way in the world I’m going to do that.

“Folks voted me to be the supervisor for the next four years and I’m not going to step down,” he said. 

As for whether or not he stood by his comments, Sanders said, “If I thought it would do any good to make an apology, I would but I don’t think it’s going to do any good. 

“Everybody has got their minds made up. Let’s get on with life.”

He maintained that what he said was “taken out of context.” 

Sanders said he has received numerous death threats against him and his dog and threats to burn down his house. He declined to elaborate further, saying,”I don’t want to fuel the flames.”

At a press conference in front of the courthouse Wednesday morning, the NAACP publicly called for Sanders resignation by June 30. 

“The citizens of Lowndes County should be enraged and embarrassed by the comments that Mr. Sanders made,” said State Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus. “His comments, which I care not to repeat, have made this about far more than the flag and a Confederate statue. His comments spewed hatred and a gross misrepresentation of history.

At the press conference, Brooks demanded Sanders resign by June 30, if not before. 

Speaking to the crowd, Brooks said, “On June 30, if Harry Sanders has not resigned, I want you and everybody you know to be right back…Harry Sanders cannot sit in that board room when he designated Black folks as nothing.”

Follow Sarah Fowler on Twitter: @FowlerSarah

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