Victim of racist graffiti urges action

City, police and local NAACP branch forming committee to address community concerns

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On the heels of an arrest announced Wednesday in a recent racist graffiti case on First Street, the victim spoke at Wednesday night’s Rome Common Council meeting.

A First Street man now faces a felony and other charges after police say he drew a Nazi swastika and wrote racially hateful language on the side of the victims rented U-Haul truck earlier this month on First Street earlier this month. A tire had also been flattened on the vehicle the victim was using to move to another home.

Among remarks Wednesday night, the victim added that she wanted to make sure all people in Rome had adequate and equal protection by law enforcement, noting that it appeared to her there had been a delayed police response to her initial call for help regarding the graffiti matter.

She opined that if a white person called for help the response might have been quicker.

The victim — a Rome native who had lived elsewhere for a period of time before moving back — said she was dismayed to experience racism on her return to the city.

“This is something that has to be addressed. ...We do not feel protected,” she said regarding Rome’s black community. “We’re not angry. We’re fed up. We demand equality.”

In response, second ward councilor John Mortise said it was, “very unfortunate that this happened. I apologize. ...It was very, very uncalled for.”

The First Street incident happened in the second ward.

The rest of the Common Council also echoed dismay and said the city, police and the Rome branch of the NAACP are forming a committee to work on addressing these community concerns.

In other business, the council passed a measure extending the time for the presentation of Rome’s 2021 budget to the City of Rome Common Council.

Typically, a budget is presented to the council by September 30 each year for consideration.

The resolution provides for an extension to October 21 for budget completion amid financial uncertainties relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An agenda item tabled at a previous meeting, remained so Wednesday night as it relates to budget work. City officials held off on passing a resolution that would pave the way for a new bucket truck purchase - an expense over $100,000 - as there are several unknowns as to what shape the budget for next year will be in due to COVID-19 economic impacts.

The Common Council also accepted a donation to the police department of a stab proof and ballistics vest worth $1,500 for a Rome Police Department K9 unit.

The next scheduled Common Council meeting is October 14.

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