Mayor Pete Buttigieg Has a Black Lives Matter Problem at Town Hall Meeting

Mayor Pete Buttigieg Has a Black Lives Matter Problem at Town Hall Meeting

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been considered not only a fresh face in the herd of Democrats racing for that party’s presidential nomination but also a potential history-maker as the possible first openly gay president of the United States. However, he is also the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a medium-sized city with some significant problems, one of them being the racial divide that has afflicted too many other communities.

A police shooting of an African American man, a Black Lives Matter protest, and a raucous town hall seems to demonstrate that Mayor Pete has not gotten a handle on his current job, casting doubt on his suitability to be president of the United States.

NBC News explains how the town hall went:

For the first time, cracks in Buttigieg’s composure have publicly emerged, as he’s struggled to find the right tone to respond to piercing questions from his own constituents about whether he’s a racist and what the life of a black person means to him.

“As a hastily arranged town hall meeting Sunday in South Bend descended into chaos — with attendees screaming profanities at him, at his police chief and each other — Buttigieg seemed to vacillate between despondency over the jeers, irritation over being interrupted and wonky erudition as he offered explanations about local laws on police misconduct that only further angered the crowd.”

“Yet once the gathering dispersed after the nearly two-hour meeting, the testiness from Buttigieg seemed to turn to sadness as he fielded questions from reporters. He became visibly emotional when asked whether it had been wise to hold the event given the communal shouting match it ultimately became.”

The crises started a week before the town hall when a white police officer, responding to a call that a suspicious person was going through parked cars at an apartment complex, engaged a black man named Eric Jack Logan. According to the officer’s account, Logan approached him with a knife. The officer shot Logan, who later died at the hospital.

One of the problems with the shooting is that the officer’s body cam was not switched on, raising suspicions in South Bend’s African American community. The shooting was not the first officer-involved use of force incident in recent memory. Also, the South Bend Police Department was already been roiled with a scandal when Buttigieg was obliged to make a messy personnel decision,

NBC News reported:

“Earlier in Buttigieg’s term, he demoted the city’s first black police chief, Darryl Boykins, who had ordered the taping of phone calls of senior police officers he allegedly made racist comments about him. Buttigieg said he demoted Boykins because he failed to disclose that the FBI was investigating him for inappropriately wiretapping subordinates. The demotion sparked a wave of criticism from the city’s black community.”

“Boykins sued the city after his 2012 demotion, alleging racial discrimination and saying the taping scandal was used as a pretext for his ouster. Meanwhile, the South Bend Common Council has pushed to make public the secretly recorded tapes of police officers allegedly making racist comments.”

The shooting incident and Buttigieg’s handling of it suggests that he is not quite ready for prime time, as the saying goes. To be sure racial unrest has become a feature of city politics, especially with the rise of Black Lives Matter, a group that is either a civil rights organization or an anti-police terrorist group, depending on one’s point of view.

The Black Lives Matter movement made itself known at a Netroots Nation meeting early in the 2016 campaign cycle when Martin O’Malley, then governor of Maryland and candidate for president, had the temerity to say, “Every life matters and that is why this issue is important. Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.” He was practically booed off the stage and was forced to apologize. He dropped out of the race when he placed third in Iowa.

Now it’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg who has the Black Lives Matter problem. The police shooting scandal suggests that he might be well advised to drop out of the presidential race, attend full time to the problems his city faces, and maybe run again for president – in ten or twenty years.

He will likely be forced to do so anyway when he starts losing primaries very badly.


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