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Fairmont council votes to rebuke Councilman Bledsoe over Delegate Walker comments, calls for his resignation

MORGANTOWN — Fairmont City Council voted Tuesday night to rebuke Councilman Barry Bledsoe over social media comments he’d posted regarding Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, and Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris.

The rebuke came in the form of a resolution titled “Adoption, A Resolution Of The Council Of The City Of Fairmont, West Virginia Rebuking Council Member Barry Bledsoe, Representative Of Council District Five; Condemning And Denouncing His Actions; And Requesting His Resignation Forthwith From The Council.”

The vote was 5-1 with two abstentions, according to news reports. Members Donna Blood, Tom Mainella. Phil Mason, Mayor Brad Merrifield, and Frank Yann voted yes; Bledsoe, who attended via phone, voted no. Members Dora Grubb and David Kennedy abstained.

In a Wednesday phone interview, Bledsoe declined comment on council’s action. Asked if he planned to resign, he said, “Absolutely not.”

As previously reported, Bledsoe on his Facebook page first referred to Harris as a “hoe,” a misspelling of the slang term “ho,” a misspelling he acknowledged in later posts. Bledsoe later publicly apologized for that statement and removed itfrom his Facebook page.

But then he posted a link to an article from The Dominion Post about Walker’s support for a Black Lives Matter crosswalk coming to Arch and Green streets in the Greenmont neighborhood of Morgantown. In comments on the post, he added, “If you don’t get rid of that satanic Danielle Walker you might as well give up!”

Bledsoe told The Dominion Post on Aug. 24 that his “satanic” comment about Walker had nothing to do with race — she is Black — or the crosswalk. It addressed actions she’s taken as a delegate.

He cited in particular her support last year for a proposed Drag Queen Story Time aimed at young children at the Morgantown Public Library. Bledsoe supporters who turned out to at council’s Aug. 25 meeting also cited Walker’s vote against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which passed the House 93-5 last session.

Walker attended Tuesday’s meeting and witnessed the vote.

“I was really there to listen and to stand in unity and solidarity with the residents of Fairmont and also the city council members.”

“It really put out a call of action. It took, I felt, a heaviness, a little bit, off of the residents of Fairmont, Teh Friendly City. … It was just amazing.”

She understands that a petition process has begun to remove Bledsoe from office. “The city of Fairmont really stood out last night by denouncing those actions.”

With the vote taken, Walker said she still isn’t ready to put this behind her. “The threat, the smearing and the slander are still there. And that’s what I think we need to be cognizant of: our words.”

Elected officials have the public’s eyes on them, she said, and represent all, even those who voted against them. “There’s a level of respect that should come with that. Even if you don’t agree with the policy, you must respect that office, and that person, of just being a human being. It’s not behind me.”

One battle is won, she said, but the war is not over.

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