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Griffin commissioner silenced as citizen continually uses n-word

There is one black commissioner on the entire board, but he wasn't allowed to speak up when a former commissioner repeatedly used the n-word.

GRIFFIN, Ga. - A Georgia city commission is under fire after it allowed a white former commissioner to continue speaking after using the n-word multiple times but silenced a black member of the board who tried to speak up.

The former commissioner, Larry Johnson, came to the podium at the Griffin City Commission meeting on March 28 to speak on a recent proclamation naming April Confederate History Month in the city.

But, at least some of his comments were directed toward District 6 Commissioner Rodney Mccord.

While their interaction began cordially with Johnson saying that Mccord had "changed" and "got better," it devolved quickly as Johnson recalled a previous situation where Mccord allegedly wouldn't stand for the American flag and how he then responded by wearing a Confederate belt buckle.

Then, Johnson's narrative moved on to an alleged conversation he had with Mccord while the two were serving on the board together.

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"I told you at that time that there were white folks and there were black folks when I was growing up," Johnson said. "There was white trash, my family, and there was n*****town and I lived next to n*****town."

In the official recording of the meeting, Mccord can be heard asking "you grew up next to what town?"

"N*****town, son, I'm telling you," Johnson responded. "Now, I've changed. I'm no longer called white trash and they're no longer called that."

A clearly agitated Mccord then tries to respond to the words but is stopped quickly by the chairman, Douglas Hollberg, who returns the floor to Johnson.

A short time later, Mccord again tries to speak up after Johnson's derogatory words.

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"I'm not going to sit here and let this man use that time of language," Mccord said. "And, if nobody else is offended, then I am."

Chairman Hollberg continues attempts to quiet Mccord but he continues.

"Now, if y'all want to clap and think that that's OK for this gentleman to stand in 2018 and get here at the board of city commission meeting - 2018 - the Civil War is over and he is using the n-word not once, not twice - three times," Mccord said. "And he just continues to say it without worrying about who it offends."

After the chairman again quieted Mccord, Johnson was allowed to continue speaking regarding books about the Confederacy and African Americans who fought for the South. Johnson went on to say that the flag was a "reflection of what the heart chooses to see" before adding his own words about his heritage.

"My skin is white, my neck is red and I was born in a Southern bed," he added. "Nothing wrong with that; I hope that doesn't offend anybody."

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The chairman ultimately told Johnson to step away from the podium for going over his allowed time but Johnson reiterated a previous point that the American Civil War wasn't fought over slavery as he walked away.

The impact of his earlier words, however, was felt far beyond Mccord's seat.

During public comment, residents admonished the commission for the night's handling of racially charged words.

"I come to these meetings and I love all of you," on resident said. "I do, however, think that respect is lacking and that was demonstrated tonight."

She suggested that future meetings include a list of words that would not be allowed during the meeting.

"Because, if I stood up here and used a four-letter word that began with an 'F' and ended with a 'K,' everyone would be offended," the woman said. "So, I think there should be a decorum."

The exchange regarding the n-word was actually the second time Mccord was silenced during the meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, he requested a vote on the proclamation for Confederate History Month and was denied the request by the chairman. McCord was then prevented from commenting on the proclamation until the floor was opened up to residents.

However, at that point, he did speak at length on the issue and challenged historical accounts brought up in the meeting of the Civil War and the Confederacy.

11Alive reached out to McCord who was first elected to the board in 1994. He said something like this had never happened before and that no one has ever acted in that manner.

“Overall just being offended to hear someone speak that way at a public meeting, in a public place," McCord said. "For him to use that word, to think that it was OK. It wasn’t a slip. It seemed malicious because he said it three times.”

McCord said race relations are great in the Griffin community but for someone to bring that type of attitude to the meeting was just disheartening.

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