Anger flares at Washington city council meeting over councilman's Facebook post

The city council meeting of a town in Washington state drew a large crowd Tuesday night on the heels of a controversial Facebook post by a local official that disparaged Latinos.

Many of the people who attended the city council meeting in Kennewick demanded that Councilman Bob Parks resign, saying he was igniting ethnic strife.

“It is difficult to be in a position of explaining how an elected official who is meant to represent my students and their families is instead spreading racist and insulting rhetoric,” said Jill Mulhausen, a Kennewick teacher, who called on Parks to step down, according to the Tri-City Herald.

Parks' post, which was put on Facebook on March 24 but has since been taken down, showed a photo of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The caption on the picture said: “I went to Yakima today. Now I know why [Republican presidential candidate Donald] Trump wants to build a wall.”

Parks captioned the image, “Wait until he sees Pasco!”

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Sanders stopped in Yakima last month to rally supporters before the Washington Democratic caucuses. Both Yakima and Pasco have booming Latino communities, though Pasco’s Hispanic population is slightly larger. About 48 percent of Yakima’s population and 56 percent of Pasco’s is Hispanic, according to the Seattle Times.

Some residents called on the other town officials to draft a resolution expressing support for diversity, while others threatened to boycott local businesses.

“Leaders bring people together," Mulhausen said at the meeting, addressing Parks directly. "You’re divisive. Leaders listen to their constituents. You have been dismissive. Leaders learn and grow. You’re stuck in fear and hate.”

Parks apologized at the council meeting – a departure from his previous reaction to criticism of his Facebook remark, when he responded defensively, even engaging in a prickly exchange with Pasco’s mayor.

“Who in here has never made a mistake before?” said Parks, according to the Tri-City Herald. “Everyone had their say. I appreciate it. You guys do what you have to do. I’m not going to resign. I have a year and a half left. Then I will ride off into the sunset.”

“I’m sorry what I’ve shared has caused hate,” he said.

Rick Rios of Pasco said that Parks’ remarks were hardly an isolated incident in the town of Kennewick. Rios may decide to call for a boycott of Kennewick businesses on a radio show he hosts.

Resident Maren Reynolds said that the kind of rhetoric and views Parks displayed “should be left with the segregated drinking fountains of yesteryear.”

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