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Jefferson County Commission Sparks Backlash After Rejecting NAACP Resolution

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Jefferson County Commission
A full room of locals attending Thursday's Jefferson County Commission meeting, via remote livestream.

Citizens of Jefferson County made their voices heard at a county commission meeting Thursday night after a proposed resolution condemning white supremacy was rejected from the agenda.

A group of about 70 protestors stood outside the Charles Town Library, which is the building that houses county commission meetings. Many among them used nearly an hour of public comment time during the meeting to voice displeasure over the commission’s inaction.

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Elizabeth McGowen
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Protestors outside the Charles Town Library on Thursday, where commission meetings are held.

This comes after a picture surfaced of Jefferson County Commissioner Tricia Jackson posing with two alleged members of the Proud Boys, an alt-right hate group that has been linked to events like the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The men in the photo were wearing clothing with the group’s logo and using the “okay” hand gesture, which was designated as a hate symbol relating to white supremacy by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019.

An initial statement made by Commissioner Jackson on her Facebook page, following the photo’s initial resurfacing in June, said it was innocent and made at the request of two men at a local restaurant several years ago.

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Jefferson County Commissioner Tricia Jackson poses for a photo with two men allegedly using the “okay” hand gesture and wearing hoodies with the Proud Boys logo.

NAACP Jefferson County President George Rutherford, who wrote the resolution, said the chapter wants to know where the commission stands.

“We want the county commission to take a position and say they are against this type of thing. If you look at that resolution, it doesn't say one thing about getting rid of anyone or anything,” Rutherford said.

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George Rutherford
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A resolution proposed by the Jefferson County NAACP to the county commission condemning white supremacy.

In response, many of the citizens attending the meeting requested that the commission speak out against white supremacy.

“A strong statement by the commission addressing the rising tide of violence against people of different races and ethnicities would put this subject to rest and assure constituents that the commission will not tolerate hate in our Jefferson County,” Eastern Panhandle local Elizabeth McGowen said in her public comment to the commission.

“We want to say that in Jefferson County, and then the Eastern Panhandle and in West Virginia, there's no room for hate here. We reject hate. We don't welcome it,” fellow attendee Stewart Acuff said in an over-the-phone interview.

Lyn Widmyer, a former county commissioner from 2008 to 2013, also attended the meeting alongside the protestors. She noted that because of state law, county commissioners cannot respond during public comment.

“That was another reason it should have been on the agenda, so people could hear the thoughts of the county commission,” Widmyer said. “I'm always hopeful that it will appear on the next county commission agenda so we can hear a discussion of it amongst our elected officials.”

Both the Jefferson County NAACP and the West Virginia Democratic Party previously released statements condemning Jackson for the photo.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reached out to the commission for a statement but did not immediately hear back.

Eastern Panhandle Reporter, ssnyder@wvpublic.org, 304-449-4653

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