The mayor of a small town in Maryland abruptly resigned Monday after revealing she has been the target of racist attacks and harassment since taking office two years ago.
Mayor Tonga Turner, Upper Marlboro’s first African-American mayor, made the shocking announcement during an evening town hall, where news of the alleged racism came as a surprise to residents, according to NBC Washington. However, a city spokesman says the attacks aren’t the reason Turner is stepping down.
The small-town mayor submitted her resignation letter on Monday, which was later posted to the city’s Facebook page.
“I’m writing to inform you that effective Friday, June 21, 2019, I’ll no longer be serving as mayor-president of the board of commissioners for the town of Upper Marlboro,” the letter read. “Serving the Town of Upper Marlboro has been one of the greatest experiences of my career, and it has been a distinct honor to have served alongside each of you.”
She went on to celebrate the successes of her tenure, like securing a record $800,000 in grant support for the city and passing legislation to encourage economic growth. Turner also mentioned the negatives, writing that Upper Marlboro “has been plagued with a dark history and past.”
The mayor didn’t give a reason for her sudden resignation, but said, “I am truly excited about what the future holds for the town and what the future holds for me as we both embark on new journeys.”
Residents who attended Monday’s town hall meeting said they had no idea Turner was being targeted with racist harassment.
“She explained a lot about receiving threatening emails and being called certain words from her constituents,” local resident Angel Saules told NBC Washington. “Her tires have been slashed, from what I understand.”
Saules said she quickly realized the reality of it all when a member of their community, reportedly a former town commissioner, was spotted drawing swastikas in a notepad during the meeting. Fellow Upper Marlboro resident Monica Wilson said she saw it too, and snapped a photo of the man.
“And I look over and see him scribbling swastikas over and over again,” she recalled. “He flips the pages, continues to scribble additional swastikas.”
Ali Feemster, who also attended Monday’s meeting, told FOX 5 DC he knows racism is alive and well but didn’t realize it was in his own backyard.
“I didn’t know these things were going on,” said Feemster. “I mean, I know they’re going on throughout America but not in Prince George’s County, and not to the extent of the mayor.”
Despite all this, the town’s spokesman, Ray Feldmann, denied that the racist incidents had anything to do with Turner stepping down. Her reason, he said, is that she simply wanted to devote more time to her family.
“There have been some incidents that she’s had to deal with, but those were not incidents that had anything to do with her resignation,” said Feldmann.
The spokesman added that Turner’s “progressive” thinking and policies had also ruffled a few feathers.
“She is about not accepting the status quo, shaking things up,” he told NBC Washington. “And that has not been acceptable to a lot of people.”
Turner’s resignation will take effect on June 21.
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