Salisbury City Council will discuss tear gas ban, diversity mural downtown

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 20, 2020

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — City Council members on Tuesday will consider banning the use of chemical agents by police officers and the painting of an equity and diversity street mural downtown at its virtual meeting.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. and can be streamed live at salisburync.gov/webcast and on the city’s Twitter account. Anyone who wishes to speak during the public comment period must sign-up by 5 p.m. on Tuesday by contacting city clerk Kelly Baker at kbake@salisburync.gov or 704-638-5233.

Both proposals are from Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins in light of protests regarding racial injustice and police brutality. One includes a proposal to consider banning the use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas, by Salisbury Police officers.

Heggins, an Army veteran, said she is proposing the ban of chemical agents such as tear gas because they are used for war and “we’re not at war with our residents.”

Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes declined to comment on the proposal to the Post, but said he will speak about the matter at Tuesday’s meeting.

Both proposals were originally on the agenda for the city council’s June 16 meeting; they were rescheduled amid discussions about the relocation of “Fame” and the 2020-21 fiscal year budget. Heggins’ original proposal was to paint “Black Lives Matter” in downtown Salisbury, something that has been done in Washington, D.C., and other major cities. Heggins at the time said the mural includes a focus on the arts because the idea serves a “very artistic way” to bring together various groups in the community and show unity.

“We are a city of transition,” she said. “Participating in a community-based art piece helps to facilitate health transformation.”

Heggins said she changed her proposal because she didn’t want a “Black Lives Matter” mural to become a flashpoint in the community similar to the “Fame” Confederate statue. She said the city should now begin the process of “sponsoring healing and restorative activities and initiatives that promote value and respect for the diversity of thought, practices and lived experiences.”

“I realize that emotions are high and people are super sensitive,” she said. “The national rhetoric right now has emboldened too many people to be unkind, racially insensitive, xenophobic and unduly vile. My hope is that an equity and diversity mural can bring our multicultural/ethnic/linguistic residents together through the use of arts.”

Other items on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting include:

  • Adopting a budget ordinance for the 2020-21 budget in the amount of $129,252 to appropriate housing stabilization funds.
  • Awarding Eric Stilwell with a sidearm and badge in recognition of his retirement from the Salisbury Police Department on Aug. 1.
  • Consideration to approve the installation of a directional bore duct and aerial fiber optic cable within the city and NCDOT rights-of-way on West Bank Street, East Monroe Street, Old Concord Road and South Arlington Street.
  • A request for the voluntary annexation of Rowan Woodland Apartments, LLC, and adoption of a resolution instructing Baker to investigate the request.
  • Adopting a resolution that ratifies a sole source purchase contract with Tyler Technology, Inc., in the amount of $117,965 for purchase of ExecuTime software and equipment.

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 8:47 on July 20, 2020, to correct the time of the meeting. We apologize for the error.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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