A coalition of Delaware County residents is calling for the censure of Walton Mayor Stephen Condon in response to his “racist, perverted and xenophobic* remarks.”
In a Change.org petition launched Tuesday, the Young Progressives of Delaware County called on the Walton Village Board of Trustees to formally condemn Condon’s posts, which the group decried as “anti-Black Lives Matter, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic/anti-immigrant.”
“When someone is elected to public office, they represent everyone; supporters and opponents alike,” the petition reads. “In taking that oath to govern without fear or favor, an elected official need always be mindful of the distinction between their personal opinions and those they express as an elected official.”
Condon’s personal Facebook page appeared to have been deactivated Friday, but a series of 18 screenshots attached to the petition exclusively showed memes and posts Condon shared from other pages.
One reads: “If Muslims hate dogs, beer, bacon, bikinis and freedom of speech, why exactly do they come to America?”
Another, showing an aerial photo of the Twin Towers burning, reads: “3,000 Americans died, including 343 FDNY members, and now we have Muslims in Congress that hate our president, Israel and America. Wake up and smell the curry.”
Curry is a traditional dish in India, a Hindu-majority country.
“Even if he and other people who hold similar views see them as memes, this kind of rhetoric is still undoubtedly violent and still hurtful,” the Young Progressives of Delaware County said in a statement. “It’s disheartening to see a prominent public figure … spread this kind of divisive language.”
“The rioters say they are coming to rural areas. Is there a bag limit and do we have to tag them? Asking for a friend,” read one meme.
A July 19 meme listed the “warning signs of white supremacy” as “full-time employment,” “literacy,” “professional or technical degree,” “auto insurance,” “good credit rating,” and “no criminal record.”
The Young Progressives of Delaware County also condemned what they described as “hundreds of extremely explicit Facebook pages” to which Condon subscribed that are “centered around the objectification of women” and were publicly visible on his profile even by viewers not on his Facebook friends list.
“It is deeply concerning that Mayor Condon would follow these pages on his public profile, where he identifies as the mayor of Walton,” the group said in a statement, noting that Condon’s profile biography, formerly visible directly beneath his profile picture, read: “MAYOR of the Village of Walton.”
Contending that Condon’s posts are “a matter of public concern,” the Young Progressives of Delaware County said: “We believe that Walton residents, as well as Delaware County residents as a whole, need to be made aware of the comments made by one of the top elected officials in the area. Clearly, the mayor sees no problem with what he’s posting and thought the village was unaware of his comments or simply didn’t care.”
The petition, which garnered more than 100 signatures on the day of its launch and surpassed 500 by the following day, sparked several heated discussions in Walton community Facebook pages. Many members defended and even celebrated Condon and his posts, while another called for an organizer to be “(dragged) into the street and spat upon.”
Another member encouraged a fellow commenter to sexually assault the organizer, using a derogatory phrase Donald Trump was recorded saying in the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape.
“From the negative remarks we’ve received from our posts, it’s very clear that these posts have been seen and ignored or written off as jokes for a while,” the Young Progressives said. “The idea of racism, objectification, xenophobia and misogyny are almost normalized behind the phrases like ‘it’s free speech’ or ‘take a joke.’”
“The rhetoric that the mayor is spreading is dangerous,” the statement continued. “When you take public office, you now take on that responsibility of being the face of the village. As the face of the village, and acknowledging that in your profile, you cannot share those things without spreading hate.”
Condon did not return multiple calls to the Walton Village Office left Wednesday, Thursday and Friday or an email sent Friday. A number listed in the phone book was disconnected, and a Friday evening call to his cellphone went to voicemail after two rings and was not returned.
Messages left Friday at the village office for trustees Eric Ball, Steven Sehen, Nathan Jamieson and Deputy Mayor Richard Doig were not returned by **Friday's press time.
Ball released an email statement Monday, saying, "I find the material that was shared on Facebook to be hurtful, divisive, and potentially damaging to our community and I strongly condemn the content that was shared in the strongest possible terms.
"Elected officials are to be held to a higher standard, and as elected officials, we are justly subjected to a stronger lens of scrutiny, due to the public nature of our elected positions."
With regards to the petition, he said, "the late Civil Rights Activist and Icon Rep. John Lewis said: "when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something." It is my opinion that Citizens and Elected Officials alike must strive to adhere to this standard and answer this call to action in all avenues of our private and public lives."
He further quoted Lewis, adding, "when you make mistakes, when you are wrong, you should admit you are wrong, and ask people to forgive you."
Ball said, "I would urge my colleagues and the citizens of my village to seek a path of healing vs further division, peace vs conflict, and I would additionally urge the mayor to make every effort in his capacity as Mayor to rectify this situation as soon as possible. At the end of the day we are one people, who must work together to build a stronger community no matter how adverse the circumstances may be."
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.
*changed at 4:11 p.m. Aug. 8 to correct the statement from the petitioners.
** Updated at 4:48 p.m., Aug. 10 to add the statement from Trustee Eric Ball.