Fresno City Council Member Garry Bredefeld ignites tension following off-topic rant

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A Fresno City Council Member's criticism of NFL players, and the black community lead to an emotionally charged meeting at Fresno City Hall. (KFSN)

A Fresno City Council Member's criticism of NFL players and the black community led to an emotionally charged meeting at Fresno City Hall.

"I'm glad he pulled the sheet off his face," said Rev. Sharon Avril. "We didn't know the racism... and the racist person that we are dealing with."

Avril was just one of the many faith leaders of Fresno's black community who criticized Fresno City Council Member Garry Bredefeld's speech, some called a rant in which he made what many saw as disparaging remarks about black Americans.

At the September 28th council meeting, Bredefeld started out criticizing the NFL athletes for not standing during the National Anthem to protest police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Bredefeld said he wanted to present the facts.

"There were almost 6,000 blacks killed by other blacks in 2015. In contrast, there were 250 blacks killed by police gunfire last year. And that number decreased last year," said Bredefeld during the city council meeting.

Citing his status as a veteran, he urged respect for the flag, respect for police, and said players should encourage people to get off welfare and for fathers not to abandon their families. He also said it was wrong to remove Confederate statues, which drew a rebuke from fellow council member Oliver Baines.

"What I find hard to believe is that a veteran, that wore the uniform for this country, can stand up for those that were traitors to this country. The Confederates were traitors to this country," said Oliver Baines.

When confronted by claims he caused pain to the community, Bredefeld offered this as an apology.

"For the pain that I have caused, I sincerely apologize. Did not mean to do that and that was never, never, my intent," said Garry Bredefeld.

But at a news conference following the meeting, which was attended by Mayor Lee Brand and Police Chief Jerry Dyer, community leaders found the apology fell short.

"But to apologize for people feeling hurt is totally different for apologizing for what was said," said DJ Criner.

Mayor Brand said the challenge now is to try to bring the city back together.

"The meeting we had today was very painful but necessary. That race relations and racism are still a major issue in this city. My job as mayor, I was elected to be mayor of the entire city, is to unite the city. And I'll stand to work the people here today and I'll work with Council Member Bredefeld to make this a better city and strive to give everybody the same opportunities to make it a united community," said Fresno Mayor Lee Brand.

Related Topics:
politicsrace relationsFresno City CouncilfresnopoliticsFresno
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