The same activists who won national attention for staging a sit-in last month at a Dilworth Starbucks are planning a similar move Monday at the Charlotte City Council meeting.
Up to 100 demonstrators are expected to participate, in a show of opposition to council member Dimple Ajmera’s contention that Republicans who support President Donald Trump “have no place on City Council whatsoever or in the mayor’s race.”
Ajmera says she believes “Donald Trump is a divisive and negative figurehead.”
Her comments have been cheered by other Democrats, but have faced a growing backlash from those who believe Ajmera is herself being divisive. The conservative NC Values Coalition recently said the comments “demonstrate an intolerance and disrespect for those with different views than hers.”
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Sit-in organizer Sean Kilbane is founder of the Charlotte Regional Republican Volunteer Network, but he says the group attending the City Council meeting will be far more than Republicans. Attendees will include unaffiliated voters, independents and even a few Democrats, he said.
That diversity is key, he said, because more than just Republicans voted for Donald Trump, and more than just Republicans have taken offense at Ajmera’s comments. She is running for the at-large seat on City Council and appears to have incorporated defense of her statement into the campaign.
“Councilwoman Ajmera has stated that a cornerstone of her campaign is a promise to ban the voice of … anyone who supports the sitting president of the United States,” Kilbane said. “We want to remind her and the council that we as a nation are a republic and, as such, the government derives just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Ajmera has refused to back away from her comments.
“… In my opinion, Trump’s anti-immigrant and minority policies, his degrading of women and contempt for the urban poor, the disabled and disadvantaged have no place in our struggle to make Charlotte a better, brighter place for all people,” Ajmera said in a July 17 Facebook post.
“It is not about being a Republican or a Democrat. It is about standing up to Trump’s disrespect for women, minorities and immigrants. It is about standing up to Trump’s disregard for the sick, the disabled and the poor.”
Kilbane said it has crossed his mind that the council could close the meeting, forcing demonstrators into the lobby. That is a legal option, but the council would have to return to public session at some point before the close of the meeting. Should that happen, Kilbane said the group will remain peacefully in the lobby until allowed back into the chamber.
Chris O’Shea, a registered independent voter, said he intends to fill one of the seats Monday night. O’Shea is a Trump supporter, and he said he sees the sit-in is a way to remind the council “we have just as much a right to be involved in our city’s government as anybody who supported any other candidates in last year’s election.”
“Ms. Ajmera was appointed, not elected, and for her to suggest that she should decide who can or can’t represent the people of Charlotte is laughable,” he said.
Chris Turner, chairman of the MeckGOP, said the sit-in is not sanctioned nor is it sponsored by the party. However, he said he supports the effort by the group. Turner said he also supported the group’s previous sit-in at the Dilworth Starbucks.
In that case, the activists filled seats in the coffee shop on behalf of a woman who said she had been ridiculed by the staff for wearing Trump gear. The sit-in was peaceful, and all the participants – many wearing Trump gear – ordered items from the menu to ensure they were not disrupting the business.
The sit-in won national coverage for its unique approach to making a statement against harassment of voters. Starbucks apologized over the incident.