Charleston City Councilman Harry Griffin was removed from a city committee charged with eradicating institutional racism after he issued an apology over involvement with a rally last Saturday attended by the Proud Boys, a nationwide hate group.
After initial discussions with organizers, Griffin has said he withdrew his participation before the event and did not attend.
In a joint announcement Friday, Councilmen William Dudley Gregorie and Jason Sakran, who co-chair the city’s Commission on Equity, Inclusion and Racial Conciliation, did not mention the rally specifically. The decision to remove Griffin, they said, was made to ensure the group “is able to complete its work without further distractions.”
“The Commission was formed with the task of eliminating institutionalized racism and achieving racial equity throughout the City of Charleston, and we look forward to continuing those critically important efforts,” Gregorie and Sakran said.
Griffin could not be reached immediately for comment on Friday.
In a phone call Friday, Mayor John Tecklenburg called the action to remove Griffin “a good decision.”
“I think it’s important for the work of that commission to be clear, or not distracted, by statements that Councilmember Griffin has made,” Tecklenburg told the City Paper.
On Tuesday night, Sakran told the City Paper he was “disappointed” that Griffin had even a “loose relationship” with the event’s organizers.
The move comes two days after Griffin publicly apologized for committing to speak at the Dec. 5 event downtown, organized by representatives of the Facebook pages The Overton Report and Contemporary Conservative.
Initially billed as a tea party rally, organizers later praised the attendance of the Proud Boys, a designated hate group that has been involved with violent clashes during protests elsewhere in recent years. In his apology letter, Griffin explained he initially supported the organizers’ anti-tax sentiment, but that he pulled out of the event beforehand after learning more about it and disavowed support for the Proud Boys.
Police said no incidents were reported at the rally, which started at the U.S. Custom House and moved to city hall.
Meanwhile, an online petition calling for Griffin’s resignation has received more than 3,800 signatures.
City Council created the Commission on Equity, Inclusion and Racial Conciliation last summer in the weeks following protests downtown over police violence against Black Americans. At the same meeting, council voted to take down the statue to pro-slavery Vice President John C. Calhoun.
Chaired by Gregorie and Sakran, the commission also includes Councilmembers Carol Jackson, Marie Delcioppo and Keith Waring.