Protesters continue calls for resignation; Northam says he needs more time
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion on Monday morning calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after racist photos emerged on his yearbook page from medical college.
Northam held a meeting with cabinet members Monday morning, and NBC News reported Northam told them he needed more time to decide on his future as governor.
“The picture itself is not surprising for someone who grew up in Virginia, but I think what’s hurt the most is how he’s handled this situation,” said Rev. Joshua Cole, a former staffer for Northam and current President of the Stafford County NAACP.
“It’s too late for him to resign gracefully,” added April Brown, a former Northam campaign canvasser.
Monday’s protests came the day after Northam called an “urgent meeting” with his staff members.
Many of the protesters believe Northam is no longer fit to lead Virginians for the next three years.
On Friday, Northam, a Democrat, had admitted to wearing a racist costume in a photo showing someone in blackface and another person in a KKK robe in a 1984 yearbook photo.
“I have spent the past year as your governor fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people. I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term,” Northam said a statement. "That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant. I’m deeply sorry.”
Then on Saturday, Northam said he wasn’t the person in the photo and called a press conference to address the issue.
He said that Friday was the first time he saw the yearbook photo.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks. Was totally caught off guard when I saw the picture,” Northam said Saturday.
Protesters said whether or not it is Northam, the damage has been done.
"As a Democrat I'll say it, if it was a Republican we'd be calling for his immediate resignation,” Cole said. “This has nothing to do with party, this isn't about Democrats eating our own. This is about holding the man who is in office accountable."
"You've been called out,” Brown said. “You've been caught. It's time to go, it's time to get out. The fact that he's dug his heels in and said ‘no I'm not, what do I have to do to move forward and gain your trust?’ Well get out is step number one."
Brown canvased for Northam's run for Governor. She feels there are ways he can try and redeem himself, but it has to be done out of office.
"[He can] make a commitment to work within the communities he has so egregiously assaulted, not only with that past behavior with the blackface and the Klansman, but also in his current behavior," she said.
"Yes he can be forgiven, yes he can move on,” Cole said. “As a preacher I believe in forgiveness and redemption, but as our sitting Governor we cannot allow this to be a stain on him and his serving."
"We believe in redemption; redemption is one of our values, but people get redeemed outside of office," added Tracey, another protester.
As for how Virginians will handle this situation moving forward, Cole said he's not worried.
“I’m optimistic about the future of Virginia,” he said. “We had to root out, we had to get out what was there and I believe we can build off of this and continue to move forward.”
House Speaker Kirk Cox said Monday morning that has he has no interest right now in taking an approach to impeach Northam.
“That’s a very high standard," he said. "And so I think that’s why we’ve called for resignation. We hope that’s what the governor does. I think that would obviously be less pain for everyone.”
On Saturday, Cox and House Republicans issued a statement that said Northam’s “ability to lead and govern is permanently impaired and the interests of the Commonwealth necessitate his resignation.”
There have been many other numerous calls for Northam to resign, ranging from former Virginia governors to the Virginia Democratic Party to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
Virginia Democrats posted to social media Saturday that “we made the decision to let Governor Northam do the correct thing and resign this morning - we have gotten word he will not do so.”
The College of William & Mary has said Northam is no longer welcome to Friday’s Charter Day events.
“It has become clear that the Governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. “We have conferred with the governor’s office, and he will not be part of Friday’s program.”
Rowe says the photos are “a painful reminder of the hate, divisiveness and racism that so many in this country have sought for generations to overcome. That behavior has no place in civil society – not 35 years ago, not today.”
Charter Day celebrates the school’s founding and this year includes the inauguration of Rowe, who joined the school in July.
“My thoughts are with the leaders of our Commonwealth as they seek the best path forward to rebuild trust,” Rowe said. “My focus, however, is on the William & Mary community: on reckoning with our own history with humility and dedication, and on joining you in the continuing work of ensuring our university community is welcoming and respectful of all.”
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