Half of those attending Monday’s City Council meeting carried “Trump-Pence” signs, and waved small American flags.
The other half held small handmade blue signs that said, “Fake News: Charlotte Supports Trump” and “Sexism isn’t a Charlotte Value.”
The two sides re-fought the 2016 presidential election after City Council member Dimple Ajmera said on a television show last week that Trump voters shouldn’t be on City Council or in the mayor’s race – controversial comments that she has backed repeatedly.
Last week on the WCNC show “Flashpoint,” Ajmera said, “Republicans that are supporting Trump, they should have no place on City Council whatsoever or in the mayor’s race.”
Before Monday’s meeting, Ajmera called a news conference to read a statement about her comments, but she declined to answer questions from reporters.
She began her statement by thanking “all who have stood by me, my principles and my values.” She then said she would “like to extend my hand of friendship to those who disagreed with my comments because together we have much to accomplish for our great city.”
In her statement, she said that her “remarks on Trump were never to make this about a political party. Instead it remains about morals and principles, which includes standing up to Trump’s disrespect, disregard and dangerous rhetoric towards women, minorities, immigrants, disabled and the poor.”
She said she started the conversation about “Trump’s values,” and said, “I want to be the one to end it with a call to action for unity, mutual respect, care and regard for our neighbors as we we tackle very important issues of safety, trust and equity.”
Trump voter James Tatro said he disagrees that Trump stands for hate or xenophobia. But he said he wouldn’t have protested if Ajmera had assigned those values to the president and said those values had no place in city government. Her targeting of all Trump voters crossed a line, he said.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” he said. “In a city with such a wide range of beliefs, we had 100,000 Charlotteans who voted for the president. To say we have no place in city government is infuriating.”
Ajmera, a Democrat who came to U.S. from India in high school, was appointed to the council in January to replace John Autry, who left council to join the North Carolina General Assembly. Before being appointed, she had no experience in local government and was little known.
Ajmera is running for one of four at-large seats this fall, and her comments have thrust her into the spotlight, with people both for and against her. Before the meeting, some Democratic voters sought her out to shake her hand.
Her campaign manager, Dan McCorkle, attended the meeting, waving his own pro-Ajmera signs. McCorkle told Trump supporters that Hillary Clinton received more than 70 percent of the vote in the city of Charlotte.
Sebastian Feculak spoke at the council’s public forum.
“I wanted to applaud Dimple for standing up for equity and unity,” he said. “You are welcome here no matter what. Our politics are not for xenophopia, racism or sexism. If the Republican Party won't hold them accountable, I'm glad our leaders will.”
Earlier this week, the Mecklenburg Republican Party posted a clip of Ajmera’s comment on its Facebook page. The party wrote: “Democrats don’t trust the people of this great County! Hear for yourself how Democrats continue to work to engineer results by excluding citizens from having a voice in OUR own government. We must stand up against this divisive agenda they offer and vote in November for common sense Republicans who focus on local issues!”
After Ajmera read her statement at her news conference, McCorkle said she had to leave and couldn’t answer questions. A few minutes later, she was asked by reporters whether she was apologizing for her comments on the television show. Ajmera said that anyone with questions should refer to her statement. She said she could not answer questions then, either.
In other action Monday, council members voted to name Democrat Carlenia Ivory as the new City Council member for District 2. Al Austin had been the council member for District 2 but stepped down earlier this month after he accepted a new job with the state.