Thursday, June 4, 2020

Council Joins Chorus Calling on Gale to Resign

The repudiation of Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale's comments about the protests and violence that have followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police continued Wednesday night with Pottstown Borough Council offering its full-throated condemnation and joining to call for Gale to resign.

Gale made headlines this week when he issued a statement condemning the violence that has erupted from the protests calling the civic action group Black Lives Matter a "radical left-wing hate group" practicing "urban terrorism."

Reaction to his statement was swift, with his fellow commissioners Valerie Arkoosh and Kenneth Lawrence rejecting them. they were joined by Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenney, and subsequently, by Norristown Borough Council and Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot.

Norristown Municipal Council has called on Gale to resign immediately, and Gale has responded “I was elected in four county-wide elections without the endorsement or support of either the Republican establishment or Democrat establishment. I will not be bullied and pushed around for speaking the truth and exercising my First Amendment rights."

In the last election, which Gale began by trying to convince Republican voters to also elect his younger brother Sean, Gale collected 74,023 votes. As of midnight Wednesday, 73,691 people had signed a petition on calling on Gale to resign.

Wednesday night, eight members of Pottstown Borough Council added their voices to that uproar.

The condemnation, not just of Gale, but also of President Donald Trump's response to the crisis, came from four separate sources.

It began with Mayor Stephanie Henrick, who attended council's first in-person meeting in months electronically, by praising Pottstown's peaceful protest Sunday, which was joined by Pottstown Police.

"We showed the rest of the nation how its done," Henrick said, asking for those who plan to attend the next protest, scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at High and Manatawny streets, to practice social distancing so as not to violate Governor's coronavirus order.

Henrick then proceeded to read a letter calling Gale's statement "divisive" and signed by the mayors of Pottstown, Royersford, Conshohocken, West Conshohocken, Narberth, Hatboro, Lansdale and Ambler.

(The video was shot off a screen, so it is a little hard to hear. Sorry.)

It was followed, later in the meeting by Council President Dan Weand, who read a letter saying he was "aghast when reading the damaging and ignorant words of Joe Gale, who is abusing his position of power as an elected official to falsely proclaim that organizations like Black Lives Matter 'hate groups' who are 'responsible for the lawless destruction of our cities."

"None of us condone the violence that has erupted in cities across the country. But to widely and erroneously accused Black Lives Matter of being 'radical left-wing hate group' that is responsible for violent attacks and looting does more than degrade this organization, and other organizations that have legally and peacefully organized the call for equality for decades, it attempts to separate and divide us as a society" Weand read.

"Unlike Commissioner Gale, I am proud to represent a community whose strength is in its diversity. Pottstown is a community that listens to one another, celebrates its differences, learns from one another's points of view and peacefully comes together in times of sorrow to support one another," read Weand.

"For this reason, I stand alongside several other municipalities in Montgomery County to denounce the damaging words of Commissioner Gale. He does not reflect the cooperative values of Pottstown, nor the majority of residents in our county," Weand read.

"Moreover, his racist comments demonstrate how he has turned his back on those he has vowed to serve. If these are his true beliefs, then there is no possible way for him to govern and fairly represent all of the citizens in our county. As president of Pottstown Council, and on behalf of my fellow councilors, I call upon Commissioner Gale to tender his resignation immediately," Weand read.

No member of council, when asked by Weand, said they would not sign it. On Monday, when council meets online, they will vote on a resolution endorsing the letter.

When it came time to offer council comments, Councilman Joe Kirkland offered an emotional
statement about when it means to grow up in America as a black man.

"I'm going to tell you a story I've never told anyone before," Kirkland said. It was 2002 and he had been married for a year when he was pulled over on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

"When I asked why I had been pulled over, the officer "laid into me. I mean he really laid into me and he begged me, he literally begged me, to get out of the car so he could handle me," Kirkland said.

"As I started to, my wife grabbed me by the arm, and that really set him off. He belittled me, my intelligence, my race, everything he could think of. He wanted to take my pride from me, to embarrass me, and he did, and the only thing that helped me keep it together was my wife stroking my hand," said Kirkland.

"After he left, I cried and I cried. If you talk to any black male, they have these stories. I have a circle of friends, educated professionals, who hold degrees, and they all have a story like this," said Kirkland. 

"All of these stories are threads from a tapestry that covers the entire nation, a tapestry of racial inequality that stretches from California to Maine. There have been investigations proving those in power systematically chastising and prodding black communities," Kirkland said. 

"George Floyd was the final straw. People are rising up saying this will be the last thread of this tapestry. There are police chiefs all over the country saying these have been peaceful protests and we have to separate them from the opportunists coming in after to take advantage," Kirkland said.

"I won't hold back, it's the right that wants you to believe they are together, that it is all part of the same thing. We need leadership to rise to the occasion and bring this nation together, leadership at the top, in the White House," said Kirkland.

"I can't imagine a president who would fail to do this. Jimmy Carter would have, Ronald Reagan would have. Bill Clinton, both Bush's and you know Obama would," Kirkland said.

"Until we see real changes, that tapestry will continue to cover this nation from sea to shining sea," Kirkland concluded.

When it came to her turn to speak, Councilwoman Trenita Lindsay said simply, "I have a black son. And I had to teach him the law of the land."

"When he was young, he didn't understand what I was trying to teach him," she said.

"I told him because he was a black male, he would have to work extra hard and when he got pulled over, that he couldn't be popping off with his mouth. Because he has a mouth, like his mother," Lindsay said.

"I told him he has to listen, keep his hands on the wheel and not keep his license and registration in his glove compartment, to keep it in the ashtray or somewhere he can reach it easily," Lindsay said. "Because if you reach for that glove compartment, they will shoot you."

Lindsay said she has respect for Pottstown's police officers, who patrol neighborhoods on foot and try to get to know the people they are sworn to protect.

But she cringes when she hears the response to "Black Lives Matter," being "all lives matter."

"Of course, all lives matter, but when a house is on fire, that's the one the fire department focuses on. Yes, the other houses all matter, but you have to focus on where the fire is." 

There were lots of other things discussed at Wednesday night's meeting, but nothing that can't wait.


  1. And when is Vice-Chair Commissioner Ken Lawrence going to resign? He is a rapist. No one wants to look at this. He is a commissioner. The first black commissioner in Montgomerty County, so he has to have a free pass.

    Ken Lawrence is a RAPIST. Valerie Arkoosh, Montco Commissioner Chair, is protecting him. DA Steele is protecting him.

    My First Amendment Rights were violated. I was falsely arrested and slapped with a guilty verdict by a crooked judge, who was told by the crooked DA and the crooked Pres. Judge Tom DelRicci, to find me guilty.

    I actually have spoken out against police brutality many times. I have been brutalized by law enforcement myself.

    If you want Joe Gale to resign, then all the commissioners must resign. Joe did not commit a crime. Ken Lawrence did. Valerie Arkoosh did when she had me falsely arrested.

  2. My comments have nothing to do with Gale. In this time of open and honest dialogue why isn't anyone mentioning or looking into the past actions of the Pottstown police. Look at the youtube videos. Look at the lawsuits filed against them. Look at the complaints filed against the officers. Isn't this also the perfect time for the NAACP to give us follow up about the New Hanover police. Let's fix our local community. Bring what happened nationally to the local level and stop of cover ups.