SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Leaders in Savannah and Atlanta say they received racist messages this week after voicing their opposition against reopening Georgia at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted that she received a message calling her a racial slur and to “just shut up” and reopen the city. The mayor added that her daughter saw the note as well.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson on Friday shared two emails he received, one that was apparently sent to all members of the city council.
News 3 has blurred the photos due to the language used.
Bottoms responded, tweeting “I pray for you” and sharing a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Conscientious stupidity or sincere ignorance.”
Johnson said that while its alright to have disagreements, he wants to redirect people to what really matters: keeping people safe from the virus.
“Hate has no place in Savannah,” Johnson told News 3, adding, “People are united against a common enemy and I will tell you our common enemy is not each other — it is called COVID-19.”
Georgia has been in the national spotlight this week, with Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen some non-essential businesses receiving widespread criticism.
“It’s OK for us to disagree, it’s OK for people to feel like we should open now, it’s OK for people to think we should not open now but we should not degenerate ourselves where we become nasty and slanderous toward each other,” Johnson said.
Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter spoke out about the message as well as one message targeted the entire Savannah City Council. When receiving the message she dismissed it.
“Social media has provided a way for individuals to garner a level of empowerment in that it allows people to hide behind a medium where they can be somebody who they’re not or they are more empowered and emboldened to be someone that they want to be,” Gibson-Carter said.
Both Johnson and Bottoms have appeared on local and national media outlets expressing their opposition to the governor’s order. Johnson said he still has not heard from the governor but has reached out numerous times.
“Well you would think that if the governor was making decisions that were affecting cities in his state he would reach out. To that end, I’ve reached out by letter, I called even Friday and I was told they would take it under advisement whether they’ll call us back or not,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he’s still committed to the health of Savannah specifically and working with the governor. While businesses begin reopening he urges all to support local businesses but in a safe way.
“This is an opportunity that people can contact their barbers, beauty stylists, their manicurists, their massage therapists, and pay it forward. Go ahead and pay them now and just don’t get the service right now,” Johnson said.