An African-American mayor in Camilla, Ga. is protesting his own city amid claims of government-mandated segregation.
Last week, Mayor Rufus Davis said city council members voted not to give him keys to his own office at City Hall, topping a list of alleged racist policies aimed at keeping Blacks and whites separated, CBS Atlanta reported. The City of Camilla boasts a nearly 70% African-American population, yet Blacks aren’t allowed to be buried next to whites and white school-aged children are relegated to an all-white private school, according to Davis.
Now, the mayor is refusing to attend city council meetings until leaders take steps to desegregate the city.
“I’m engaging in a civil disobedience, resistance protest to address the very severe racial discrimination and invidious segregation in my city that has persisted for decades,” Davis told radio host Richard Richey in an interview. “That’s how real it is here and it’s shocking to the conscience.” Davis continued, “If the white council members had the authority to reinstitute slavery, one of them would probably make the motion and the other would second it.”
In addition to the discrimination, the mayor alleges that there are no Black police officers in the largely African-American city and barely any Black employees at City Hall. Then, there’s the fence at the Oakview Cemetery that separates where Blacks and whites are buried.
Davis spoke of one instance where the body of a biracial man who’d passed for white was exhumed from the white side of the cemetery after the city learned he was Black. He said the Black side, where the man was later reburied, is poorly maintained and some plots are even destroyed. Though segregation is NOT a written city policy, Davis said it’s definitely a well-known practice.
City Manager Bennett Adams has denied the claims, however, saying the cemetery is public and maintained.
“Whoever they are, if they come in here, we’re not going to discriminate based on race,” Adams told local station Fox 31. “To my knowledge, we’ve never had anybody come, an African-American or another non-white, come in and buy a burial lot in our cemetery.”
Davis told a different story though, saying such bogus claims are often used by city leaders to explain why there are no Blacks on the police force or employed at City Hall.
“According to the city manager, it’s all a coincidence,” he told Richey. “He looks for Blacks [to serve on the police force] but can’t find any qualified Blacks. In City Hall, … they look for Blacks but can’t find any qualified Blacks.”
Now, Davis and City Councilman-elect Venterra Pollard are working to affect change in the segregated city. Fox 31 reported that his decision to protest followed a city council vote to change the city’s charter, giving the city manager “broad and extraordinary power” overall city boards and committees. He has since vowed not to attend any council meetings until the town is integrated.
Camilla isn’t the only American city grappling with modern-day racial segregation. Recent research by 24/7 Wall Street named Detroit, Mich., Chicago, Ill. and Jackson, Miss. among the most segregated cities in the U.S. For the study, researchers calculated the percentage of metro-area Black residents who live in largely Black American census tracts, examining both racial segregation and segregation based on income. The report found that in highly- segregated cities, Black residents were much more likely to live in poverty.
“Please lend us your voice,” Davis said, entreating the help of those outside the city. “Lend us your support in addressing the issues in our community.”
For now, Camilla’s mayor pro tem will lead city council meetings in Davis’ place.