Mercer Island City Council reaffirms ‘welcoming city’ stance with letter to community

At its Sept. 5 meeting, the Mercer Island City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the community speaking out against hate groups and defending fundamental rights.

The letter was inspired by recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white nationalist rally took place last month, inspiring counter protests and comments from many elected officials.

Councilmember Dan Grausz, who drafted the letter in consultation with Deputy Mayor Debbie Bertlin and Mayor Bruce Bassett, wrote that “as community leaders, we are compelled to call out and denounce hate speech for what it is.”

“We have watched with dismay and disbelief as national leaders, and in particular the President, have made statements over the last few weeks that are not only factually incorrect but morally reprehensible,” according to the letter. “They have served to further divide the country and communities rather than unify. These words and these behaviors stand in direct contradiction to our core values.”

The letter also reaffirms the city’s November 2016 proclamation “in which we highlighted the role of [the] council in bringing people together and not dividing them,” in the wake of a “contentious and discordant national election.”

“The beliefs of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and similar racist and anti-Semitic groups are anathema to the fundamentals of our nation,” the letter continues. “There is no moral equivalency between hate groups and those who stand opposed to them. Denouncing and opposing hate groups is an imperative and the obligation of every responsible elected official — in particular, the President.”

The letter commits to the residents of Mercer Island that the council will “remain vigilant in the defense of the fundamental rights of every person in this country to live without fear of retribution or discrimination because of their race, religion, sex, national origin, color, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The Mercer Island Police Department also recently updated its policy on immigration status, releasing a video to clarify its position and reflect the values of the community. MIPD Chief Ed Holmes said that “people should feel safe contacting the police, regardless of their immigration status,” and “enforcement of the federal immigration laws is not something for local police departments to do.”

For more, see