Salem residents speak out: ‘Racism won’t be tolerated’

"There is real fear, fear like I haven't seen before in 20 years here"

Community members spoke out against a Salem councilor Monday night, days after he resigned over what his colleagues called a "reprehensible, racially charged" social media post. (KOIN)
Community members spoke out against a Salem councilor Monday night, days after he resigned over what his colleagues called a "reprehensible, racially charged" social media post. (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Community members spoke out against a Salem councilor Monday night, days after he resigned over what his colleagues called a “reprehensible, racially charged” social media post.

Hundreds of Salem residents and local activists attended Monday’s city council meeting to spread the message that racism won’t be tolerated anywhere in the state.

“We need to be vigilant, because we are almost certain that due to the climate created by the President-Elect, the acts of hate towards Blacks and Latinos will only get worse,” a press release from Hispanic Voice for Community Change stated.

Salem Councilor Daniel Benjamin resigned last Wednesday after sharing a video on social media of cars slamming into African American BLM demonstrators.

“They were horrific pictures. Anybody seeing that would be upset,” Salem Mayor Anna Peterson told KOIN 6 News. “When I actually saw the Facebook post I was shocked.”

Peterson said the city was bombarded with emails and phone calls in response to the graphic post, and that the councilor made the right decision by stepping down.

The city council formally accepted Benjamin’s resignation Monday night and voted to censure him. Benjamin removed the video he shared and issued an apology.

But many community members said Benjamin’s post and a separate incident involving a Salem police officer’s remarks on social media have them concerned.

“There is real fear, fear like I haven’t seen before in 20 years here,” one resident said.

Peterson said the city will work to protect the civil rights of every citizen.

“We truly want everyone here to feel safe, to be safe, and we want you to all know that you are going to be heard and listened to,” Peterson said at the meeting.