Mendham, NJ Deputy Mayor resigns after calling immigrants “rabid, messy, mean racoons.” [A story told in 19 videos.]

In a Facebook post on Sunday, February 11th, 2017, the Deputy of Mendham, NJ called immigrants “rabid, messy, mean raccoons.” People showed up in force at the next committee meeting to speak their minds. After public comments, the committee went into executive session. Afterwards, the Deputy Mayor announced his resignation, effective that midnight. This is a story told in a series of videos, originally posted in a Facebook post by progressive activist Brian Lee.

The offending post. Here is reaction to in on Twitter

A guest post by progressive activist Brian Lee

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On Sunday, Rick Blood, the deputy mayor of Mendham Township, made a Facebook post comparing undocumented immigrants to “rabid, messy, mean raccoons” and said that they should be exterminated. The next evening, the town had its monthly township committee meeting. And the people showed up in droves. People from NJ 11th for Change Members Official, people from Wind of the Spirit – WotS, or people who’d just heard about it in the news packed the place until it was standing room only. This is just a shot of the hallway leading into the meeting room, the place was clearly not designed for a crowd of this size!

Before the people had a chance to speak out, however, town council members made their positions known. Mayor Richard Diegnan condemned the post, reaffirmed the dignity of all people, but did not suggest any particular action that they should take.

Committeewoman Amalia Duarte, the only Democrat on the committee, gave a deeply felt speech that ended with her demanding the resignation of the deputy mayor, she went further and suggested that the town pass a fair and welcoming resolution.

Deputy Mayor Rick Blood responds with a bit of an apology, more excuses, and ended with a defiant refusal to resign.

Committeeman Warren Gisser sort of condemned the post, but did not recommend any particular action.

Committeewoman Amalia Duarte again asked Rick Blood if he’d step down, he again refused. She then asked Committeeman Frank Cioppettini, the only one on the committee who hasn’t spoken out, if he thinks the Deputy Mayor should resign. Cioppettini said that this isn’t the time nor place, to much heckling.

A bit of background: Blood was originally elected to the committee until he lost an election to Ms. Duarte. The rest of the committee, however, made up for it by appointing Blood as Deputy Mayor.

Finally, the public gets to speak:

Kimberly Gorman Gavagan, a Mendham resident, condemned Rick Blood very eloquently and demanded his resignation.

Wind of the Spirit – WotS co-president Karol Yorlany Ruiz spoke from her rich array of perspectives: as a neighbor, as a former undocumented immigrant, as an immigration lawyer, as the leader of an immigrant rights group and as the leader of a religious group. — with Noreen Staples and Karol Yorlany Ruiz in Mendham Township, New Jersey.

Tamara Harris, a Democratic candidate for the seat Rodney Frelinghuysen is vacating, spoke with the kind of conviction and moral clarity that the current holder of CD11 seat has never exhibited.

NJ 11th for Change Members Official’s Stacey Gregg, one of the bravest people I know, dared Rick Blood to do one simple thing since he wouldn’t resign: read his post out loud where it would be officially recorded. Want to take a guess to see if Mr. Blood took her up on it?

Stalwart activist Shelly Morningstar reminded people of the awful comments Rick Blood made after the post, when the media started talking to him.

Mendham resident, immigration lawyer and Latina Rochelle Abraham quietly and patiently teaches Rick Blood a lesson. I’ve also added in a clip of her son giving a brief but very important speech!

Fern Wolkin, of NJ 11th for Change Members Official, explains to Mr. Blood why he’s a lucky man.

Cinthia Osorio, an organizer at Wind of the Spirit – WotS and a DACA recipient, who is actually undocumented (DACA, as we know all too well now, does not confer any permanent status) boldly confronts Mr. Blood as one of the people he wants to exterminate. I really think her speech may have been the knockout punch (of love!) that changed the committee’s minds.

Michael Merritt of Mendham, gives an amusing and edifying speech on how Mr. Blood’s success is steeped in white privilege.

A woman who serves with Rick Blood on the Rec Committee expounds on how Mr. Blood’s racism can affect the kind of little decisions town committees make. “We know what you think now.”

Noreen Staples of Wind of the Spirit points out there’s a similar antipathy towards Puerto Ricans, who are citizens. Racism is the real motivation here, not whether someone is a citizen or not.

Finally, public comments were closed (by the way, way more people spoke than shown in the videos here). Committeewoman Amalia Duarte, sensing that her colleagues may adjourn without doing anything, starts a motion to extend. But then Rick Blood spoke up: he gave a long, rambling speech, that, while it wasn’t devoid of excuses and deflections, had a lot more contrition and regret than he had before. He ended it by saying that he’d consider resignation, but he’d need more time to think about it. Committeeman Gisser now seems to agree that something should be done. The committee agrees to adjourn for a private executive session.

After about 15 minutes, the committee comes back, where they announce that deputy mayor Rick Blood has agreed to resign.

That was quite the turnaround! And it was all thanks to people who showed up and the people who spoke up. We organized, or just came our own, with just one day’s notice, in force to dislodge a bit of hate from our government!

There are many more battles to be fought, and the broken trust between the undocumented community and Mendham Township’s government will take more work to heal. But please, everyone, never doubt that engaging with your elected officials is the right thing to do. It often doesn’t seem to work. Or more likely, we don’t get to see the results immediately. But as tonight proved, when we get engaged, we can move the government!

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