White privilege gone awry or something more nefarious?
(Edit: for those asking me for a cliff-notes, it’s difficult to summarize since the entire incident started in May 2018. Removing the ability for black residents to choose and/or recall their own elected officials is disenfranchisement and unconstitutional.)
I wanted to get this article out sooner, but I was captivated by the thousands of hours online and public of McKinney’s City Council Meetings. The things that are happening there, right in the open, in full public view are some of the most egregious of racism and corruption many have ever witnessed. In 2020, in the age of Trump, that is saying a lot. Violations of the 14th amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are on full display and the oppressors seem oblivious.
This blog has spoken before at the frustration with mostly local media, failure to follow and bring attention to stories like this, which need a much bigger focus. That last 5 minutes of the news that is usually spent on the puppy of the week or the giant beehive in Mr. Juniper’s garage pales in comparison to the situation going on in McKinney, Texas.
When this makes national news, it will be the second time McKinney becomes famous for public acts of racism. The pool party incident, being the first.
Looking at the issue from the surface.
Last week, we published two articles related to the issues in McKinney, “McKinney’s Lone Black Councilman Targeted for Standing up for Black Lives,” and “McKinney Mayor Uses Race Baiting and Lies to Attack Councilman.” Attention was initially brought to this issue because last week some of the residents were protesting the Confederate monument in front of the Courthouse. We learned that last October that Black Councilman, La’Shadion Shemwell, had proclaimed a Black State of Emergency in Texas.
On the surface, it looked like the good white folk of McKinney wanted to get Councilman Shemwell out because they wanted to improve their town’s reputation, still battered from the Pool Party incident. And while, on the surface, some residents do feel like that; the corruption violation of Constitutional rights goes much deeper than that.
Confederate Captain James W. Throckmorton
When initially learning about the issues in McKinney, I thought the hot button issue for the town right now was the Confederate Monument to James W. Throckmorton. I got a chance to speak with Councilman Shemwell by phone on Friday and asked him what he thought regarding statues.
“Sure, the statue is an issue in the town right now,” he told me, “But more important than that, is the constituents in District 1 are being stripped of the right to choose their own elected representation.”
District 1, the district which Shemwell is the elected representative of, is a majority Black and Brown community. Looking even further than that, McKinney is still a very segregated town in terms of geography. The East side of McKinney is where most BIPOC live and the rest of McKinney is predominantly white.
Councilman Shemwell went on, “I have been a voice for the community. My fear, if they get me out, that this community will no longer be able to have a voice that speaks for them.”
What started this? And how did it get here?
In May of 2018 Shemwell was arrested for failure to sign a moving violation and claimed racial profiling as the reason for being pulled over. At the time, he had his hair in dreadlocks and was already a sitting councilman. Aside from being a sitting councilman, La’Shadion Shemwell was a Black Lives Matter activist and a young Black man. In the video, which was picked up by the local Fox News affiliate (surprise, surprise), showed the verbal exchange between the Councilman and police.
Shemwell said he was not speeding, the cop said he was. The cop knew he was the Councilman and acknowledged it in the video. Shemwell refused to sign the moving violation, so he was arrested. Afterward, on social media and maybe in the news somewhere, he publicly stated he was racially profiled. Well, this pissed off a whole lot of white folk in McKinney who want their town to have a nice, pristine, and family friendly reputation.
When I asked Councilman Shemwell when things began to go south with the Mayor and when they began bumping heads. He attributed their falling out to this arrest and the immediate events that followed.
“After that arrest, Mayor Fuller wanted me to put out a statement, and the things he wanted me to say… Well, it just wasn’t true. I felt it went against my integrity. It felt as if the Mayor wanted me to sell my soul, and I wasn’t willing to do that.” – Councilman Shemwell
The public council meeting after that.
From May to December 2018, you can see in the online council meetings, there was friction. More importantly, Councilman Shemwell increasingly began to call out the obvious corruption he witnessed, which he often refers to as “The Good Ol’ Boys Club.” For example, HERE is a clip showing the white council member discussing passing an item to allow their friend Bob Tomes to build a car lot. The council discusses not only what a good friend he is and how much they like his wife, but they also talk about the millions that Tomes brings into the community.
Following that, Shemwell called each one of them out for cronyism and being part of the good ol’ boys club. He further went on to explain to them that this is not how the government is supposed to work and it’s things like this that make people not trust local government. There are more clips like this, dozens over the last few years. Like this one, (skip to 17 minutes in), which a lawyer comes to speak at public comments about how much money his clients are pouring into the town. He doesn’t say who his clients are, but the council members knew.
The relationship between Mayor Fuller and Councilman Shemwell continued to deteriorate. Not from the Councilman’s own doings.
Video shows Shemwell respectful and following the rules and Mayor Fuller continuously disrespecting the Councilman and breaking rules.
Not just one video, countless videos of city council meetings show again and again Mayor Fuller not following the rules in their city charter, often which Councilman Shemwell calls him out for. At some point, the Mayor stops referring to Shemwell as “Councilman Shemwell,” and begins calling him “La’Shadion.” To which, Shemwell has publicly stated, more than once, that the mayor is being disrespectful by calling him by his first name and to please address him as “Councilman Shemwell.” This started over a year ago and even the city council meeting last week, Mayor Fuller can be heard calling Councilman Shemwell by his first name.
However, when you watch the online videos, Councilman Shemwell ALWAYS refers to George Fuller as, “Mr. Mayor.” Not only that, it is obvious that Shemwell is always abiding by the rules and guidelines of the city charter and has at times had to remind other members what they are.
So, what is Mayor Fuller’s problem?
Going back to 2018, while it seems like the Mayor definitely suffers from white-blindness, more so the color which he sees is green. In the January 7, 2020 city council meeting, where the petition to recall Shemwell was presented, (we’ll get there), many McKinney residents had a chance to speak. Many of them spoke about whose pockets Mayor Fuller had his hands in and how many of the donations he got came from some of the people who made that petition.
However, seeing the videos of city council meetings prior to that where Councilman Shemwell has repeatedly called out and stood up against the cronyism happening within the walls of McKinney City Hall, it is easy to wonder: is Mayor Fuller’s plight to get Shemwell removed based on the need for the backroom deals and buddy system to stay in the dark? Right now, my wish is another blog or news organization with more time and resources than me would pick this up. It’s an onion, which gets deeper and more complex with each layer that is peeled back.
Fast forward to December, 2018. Councilman Shemwell is arrested again on domestic allegations. It should be noted that Shemwell denied these allegations and this went to the grand jury, where the grand jury declined to indict him. Were the allegations an act by a jilted ex-lover? The grand jury found no proof, which is why they didn’t indict him.
But like all Black men in America accused of committing a crime, the white community in McKinney behaved as if the Councilman had already been found guilty and began to drag his name through the mud.
Then, on the December 18, 2018 city council meeting the council members spoke about changing the city charter, more specifically the charter as it relates to recall elections. In the video they can be discussed making these changes to make it easiest for citizens to recall an elected city official.
The changes in the city charter.
Previous to the change, the city charter said to recall an elected city official, first there had to be a petition which needed 30% of all voters to sign the petition and for the petition to have 30 days for residents to turn in.
The changes they made went from 30% of all registered voters, (which ws 105,000 at the time), to 15% of all municipal voters, (which was 11,000 at the time). And for the petition time to be increased from 30 days to 45 days.
The change also specified that the recall elections were allowed to be voted on city-wide, instead of by district. So the entire town of McKinney can vote to recall one specific councilman, even if that councilman wasn’t in their district.
Councilman Shemwell made the news again from that December 2018 meeting when he said, “We might as well make it whites only.” You can hear the outburst from the crowd and Mayor Fuller snapping back at that comment. The thing is, though, he was 100% correct, because that’s exactly how things have been turning out.
Most astounding from that December 2018 video, was directly after the city council decided to add the charter changes to the next ballot, the mayor stood up and made a proclamation for Martin Luther King appreciation day.
The charter changes went on the May, 2019 ballot.
If anything, for those reading this, this should be a lesson to us all on how important it is to vote in every single election, municipal, state, and otherwise. In the May, 2019 elections 3,900 McKinney residents voted to change the petition time from 30 to 45 days and to change the amount of signatures needed. And only 5,100 residents voted to clarify recall elections as city wide and not by district. The city charter changes passed.
What happened was in order to now recall an elected city official, the petition would need to be signed by approximately 2,100 people, instead of the 16,000ish people prior.
Secondly, the districts are split up in 4, each representing roughly 25% of the community. Meaning, in the event of a district councilperson being recalled, 75% of the community which he or she does not represent will be able to determine whether or not the councilperson can continue to serve the 25% who elected them in the first place. Essentially, stripping away each individual district’s right to vote on or recall their chosen elected official. That is a blatant violation of the Voting Rights Act. And the fact that the district in question, District 1, is majority BIPOC, it is a blatant violation of the 14th amendment.
So, what do La’Shadion Shemwell’s constituents think?
I watched dozens of hours of these city council meetings over the last week and it is astounding. Hundreds of Black McKinney residents have shown up to speak at these meetings on nearly a weekly basis.
Councilman Shemwell has spent his time in city council, fighting for his constituents. Most of his issues and initiatives have been ignored or blocked by the mayor and other city council members. He has fought for low income housing, better parks in District 1, and to reduce taxes for seniors and disabled people. He also fought to raise the minimum wage for city employees and get maternity and paternity leave. He has fought for progress, and mostly he has fought alone. The citizens of District 1 are well aware of this.
In all of the videos I watched, (again they are all online, here), resident after resident, mostly Black, but also brown and white come to these meetings in support of Councilman Shemwell. These residents thank him for standing up for the Black voice, they thank him for the work that he’s doing, and they shame the Mayor for the racist spectacle in which he has turned the city council meetings into.
For every 5 people there are, who come in support of Councilman Shemwell, there is 1 white person who comes to speak about how shameful they are of Shemwell, to attack him for standing up for Black lives, and let him know how outraged they are that he dare imply police are killing Black people.
I spoke to a local activist, who is from a town neighboring McKinney who told me, “I’ve never seen anything like it. Which is why I began attending these meetings every week.”
After the city charter changes were made.
The people who did not like La’Shadion Shemwell, because of his activist work and his strong voice for his community, had to lie in wait to find a reason to use these new recall rules.
And when Councilman Shemwall made his Black State of Emergency proclamation in October 2019, that gave them the opportunity. Within days, they had a facebook page up and were planning signing parties to get more people to sign. There is also a Facebook group, called McKinney Cares, which pushed this petition and is littered with plenty of racist comments.
A small group of McKinney residents, all white, started this petition and within 45 days got the 2,100 signatures needed to recall Councilman Shemwell.
Many of the people who signed the petition were not from District 1, in fact only 18% of the signatures came from Councilman Shemwell’s district. Not only was this effort led by white people, outside of District 1, many of the petition organizers have ties with the police.
So, what happened was a coordinated effort by white people outside of the district which this elected official serves to remove La’Shadion Shemwell for the sole reason that he dared to stand up and speak up for McKinney’s minority community. Yet, the residents in Shemwell’s own district have adamantly expressed they do not want him recalled. Yes, this happened in 2020.
Since the Councilman refused to resign, the recall will now go on the ballot in November, and 75% of McKinney voters will vote on whether or not the Black side of town gets to keep the Black elected representative, who they love, to continue to be a voice for them in the city council.
Seriously, someone needs to call this tip into Rachel.
How dare you call me a racist.
This is something that most of us have known about and noticed over the last decade or so, the mostly Republican whites who behave in racist ways, speak in racist language, and cohort with racist people, get really angry when called out for racism. Then deny their racist, mostly because they have a black friend, a black relative, a black child, and sometimes even a black spouse.
White blindness? White denial? Racism denial? White privilege? Is there a term for this? Because in the age of Trump, it’s becoming more and more of an epidemic. Like the things we saw recently in Gainesville and Weatherford, participants of the all white pro-Confederate side have been lashing out on social media about how racist they aren’t, even though they were caught on video partaking in racist behavior. It’s so bizarre.
And right in line with all of it, after Shemwell proclaimed a Black State of Emergency, an ethics complaint was filed against Shemwell and in the meeting which the ethics complaint was discussed, Fuller said that the Black State of Emergency was a lie and a false narrative.
Talk about false narrative. This claim by Fuller is easily disproved by the hundreds of Black AND white McKinney residents who have come to these meetings to make statements about how real systematic racism and police brutality is for the black community.
There have been other public incidents in McKinney.
Fuller has been in McKinney for 30 years? Then, surely he remembers the racist McKinney resident in 1997 who went and open fired in a synagogue.
But it’s deeper than that.
The very foundation that the McKinney, Texas Government was built on has deeply racist ties. (Thank you to Jessica Luther Rummel for this find.)
On July 14, 1923, the McKinney Daily Courier Gazette announced that McKinney Knights of the Ku Klux Klan No. 120 intended on erecting a modern building as a home for the Kansman and all of their meetings. Then on August 4, 1923, the same paper announced the beginning of construction of their Klan Hall on a vacant lot on East Hunt, between Tennessee and Chestnut St.
August 30, 1924’s issue of the McKinney Daily Courier Gazette announce that some cyclone guy would speak at the “Ku Klux Klavern,” on East Hunt
McKinney had this Klaven Hall back in the 1920s. It was almost 100 years ago. A long time ago, right?
Okay, let’s fast forward to April 10, 1966.
On that day, the McKinney Daily Courier Gazette published an article which talked about the planners report on city business. Due to the state of the old city hall, planning consultants expressed an urgency for the need to build a new city hall, police department, and fire department. The article went on to discuss how at the time all of these various government departments were housed in one old dilapidated building.
The new city hall, built in the 1960s was built on the same lot as the old “city coliseum.” The city coliseum was where all official city business took place, including city council meetings and police work. The only city coliseum in McKinney was the Klan Hall. Which means up until the 1960s when the new city hall was constructed all city business and police department management were conducted out of the Klan Hall, which was built in 1923.
SO…the foundation of government in McKinney, Texas today still rests at the site of McKinney’s Ku Klux Klan no. 120 and their Klavern Coliseum. The lot is located on East Hunt Street
McKinney City Council holds meetings every Tuesday. Supporters and legal observers have promised to be there right along with him as the constitutional rights of McKinney residents are attempting to be snuffed out and one lone voice is standing against this tyranny.
If you are unable to make it, city council meetings are live streamed on Tuesdays HERE.
What is happening in McKinney now is unconstitutional and a violation of the 14th amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As McKinney attempts to strip Black voters of their constitutional rights to have elected representation, they have hurled themselves backwards 100 years, once again putting a spotlight of racism on their town.
The most ironic thing of all is McKinney citizens are currently protesting to have the statue of the Confederate Captain in front of the courthouse removed. James W. Throckmorton is someone who is well known to have fought against the passing of the 14th amendment.
(Correction: the ethics complaint that was filed against Councilman Shemwell in 2019 was filed by a citizen, not by George Fuller. We deleted a sentence which referred to Mayor Fuller as stating in the December 17, 2019 meeting the pool party incident was the only racist incident in McKinney since he lived there. We misunderstood. What he said was that was the biggest racial scandal since he lived there, as it had cast an international shadow over McKinney. Living Blue in Texas regrets this mistaken and will always strive for honesty and transparency)