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City of Charleston passes 1st reading of measure to make special commission permanent

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 2:44 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2021 at 4:07 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston City Council passed on a first reading that will make a commission designed to address systemic racism in the city a permanent fixture.

The Special Commission on Equity, Inclusion and Racial Conciliation, renamed the Human Affairs and Conciliation Commission, was formed in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the demonstrations that followed nationwide. It passed via an 8-4 vote, Tuesday night.

“People in the community feel their voices are not being heard, so when this committee went out, this committee was volunteers,” Council Member Robert Mitchell said. “They did a lot of work, so we need to take some of those things and take it very seriously.”

When it was formed in June 2020, the commission had 90 days, which was later extended, to come up with a vision for addressing racial inequality and tangible solutions for improving equity. In August 2021, the commission published its 500+ page report including a long list of recommendations.

One of those recommendations was to make the commission permanent.

Activists have been pushing to make the commission permanent ever since. However, the city council has voted against making the commission permanent before, and they have never actually voted to receive the recommendations made in the report.

Council Members Ross Appel and Harry Griffin were among those who voted against the first reading of the commission. Both declined to comment on their votes after the meeting ended.

Council Member Jason Sakran co-chaired the commission when it was formed. He said when the commission published the August report, none of those recommendations have been turned into law, which, he said, caused misinformation to spread.

“We have to come to grips with our history here in Charleston, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Sakran said. “I think it’s foolish to be able to not have a conversation about race and at the same time look at our history, admire ourselves as the best country in the world and have that conversation in the same vain.”

However, several people who spoke during the public hearing said it’s not the government’s responsibility to oversee how people treat each other.

“The only way we’re going to get along is if on the street we talk to each other, not by a commission telling us how we have to behave and how to treat each other,” a woman said.

“This commission on racial and equity inclusion was a knee jerk reaction to satisfy the mob,” a man said. “It’s not doing anybody any good. You guys have heard about it. It’s going to do nothing but divide this community.”

A second reading on the commission is expected to be read during the first council meeting of the new year on Jan. 11.

Council Member Sakran said he will work with the members who voted against the commission leading up to that meeting.

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