Flint City Councilperson Eric Mays repeatedly made Nazi salutes towards Council President Monica Galloway during and after two recent council meetings.
The Jan. 15 special meeting of Flint City Council began with calls for apologies after Mays made Nazi salutes on the dais at the regular council meeting two days prior.
During the Jan. 13 regular council meeting, Mays made a Nazi salute in response to Council President Monica Galloway’s ruling on an procedural issue.
The councilperson sat up in his chair, raised his hand as a Nazi salute, and said, “Miss Galloway, you don’t have to sound like Hitler. What? You want us to do this?” Galloway did nothing. He repeated the gesture and Galloway again said nothing.
At the Wednesday special meeting, Councilperson Maurice Davis was the first to address the issue.
“One of my colleagues might have thought was a joke last week with the Hitler deal,” Davis said. “A joke is only when everybody in the room is laughing. If everybody ain’t laughing it’s an insult. We gotta respect everybody’s belief.”
In response, Mays explained his behavior by saying, “I take the finances of the City of Flint very seriously and, if I have to, make a gesture of Hitler talking about a council president or any other leader that’s wrong.”
Mays did not offer an apology, choosing instead to say, “I’m here to tell you if it’s Mr. Neeley [Mayor Sheldon Neeley] I’ll do the same gesture to prove that somebody is acting as a dictator. I can emphasize dictator and wrongfulness without being an advocate of genocide. So if all of this that I did, and it wasn’t no fun, it’s serious business I’m making a point. When I can’t speak verbally I’ll speak with sign language.”
After receiving a call from a concerned resident and the Jewish Federation, Galloway issued a response at this evening’s special meeting.
“This happened under my leadership and should never have happened,” Galloway said. “I am sorry to the community that, instead of apologizing, we make excuses for the things we’re doing even though we know that it is hurtful and could be seen as offensive.”
As he exited the building, Mays made the Nazi salute several more times towards Galloway. He made the Nazi salute twice next to her, once before entering his office to be interviewed, and then once again before he got on the elevator.
Steven Low, executive director of the Flint Jewish Federation (flintfed.com), told EVM today that after he was notified by concerned citizens of the gesture he watched the video the next morning.
“I found it highly offensive and I have very sad feelings about it. I feel very sad for Mr. Mays and the people of his ward,” Low said. He said he was “highly disappointed that an elected official would stoop to use such a gesture to express his anger towards other council members.
“It shows his vast ignorance of history…it’s shocking,” he said.
EVM asked Low what he would say if he had the opportunity to talk to Mays or meet with him. Low said in fact he offered to Monica Galloway, Flint City council president, that he would set up and fund a trip for all the council members to tour the Holocaust Museum in Detroit.
“I would never minimize the horrors and the cruelty that African-Americans endured under slavery and Jim Crow in American history. This is what I’d say to Mr. Mays,” he said.
Low spoke to EVM by phone from his office at the Flint Jewish Federation on Bristol Road. Low is originally from Southern Illinois and moved to Flint in 2011 to take the position at the Jewish Federation.
The most recent FBI data shows that hate-crime murders are at a 27 year high. Jewish people and institutions are the majority of targets of religious hate crimes, at 57.8 percent. In 2018, 11 Jewish worshippers were murdered in the three congregations meeting at the Tree of Life Synagogue building in Pittsburgh, the deadliest anti-Jewish hate crime in American history.
In December 2019, a man accused of storming into a Hasidic rabbi’s home and stabbing five people at a Hanukkah celebration in a New York City suburb was also suspected in another stabbing near a synagogue a month earlier. The New York Times described the attack as a “bloody rampage that horrified people across the country.”
EVM Staff Writer Melodee Mabbitt can be reached at email@example.com. EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.