Tucson Mayor Regina Romero accuses organizers of pro-law enforcement event of being white supremacists

Drawing a line on social statements

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Inflammatory comments from the Mayor’s office could end in a lawsuit.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero took to Twitter on Tuesday, July 2, to accuse the president of pro-law enforcement group of being a “white supremacist.”

In a tweet that can be read below, Romero said “requests from white supremacists have no place on our City streets.”

On Wednesday, President of “Back the Blue” Tucson, Tim Cesolini, applied for a permit to paint a thin blue line on Stone Avenue, just outside of the Tucson Police Department headquarters.

The group said its motive was to show support as calls to defund the police spread across the country.

According to Romero, the permit was submitted by council member Ward 4 Councilwoman Nikki Lee and approved by the city manager.

Cesolini was granted the permit Thursday morning. However, just moments after Romero’s tweet, he received a call notifying him that the permit had been revoked.

“I’m in total shock,” Cesolini said. “I support the police; that’s why this was done. There was no other motivation, there was no political gain. I have brothers that are officers … we shouldn’t be picking sides.”

On June 19, Romero announced the addition of a Black Live Matter banner to the city hall building. KOLD News 13 posted a photo of the banner on Facebook, sparking a debate about whether the city should be supporting for the BLM movement.

JUST IN: In celebration of Juneteenth, Mayor Regina Romero unveiled a "Black Lives Matter" banner at City Hall >> https://tucsonne.ws/2UVd7pB

Posted by KOLD News 13 on Friday, June 19, 2020

Ward 4 Councilwoman Nikki Lee released a statement in response to the Mayor saying she believes it’s possible to support multiple causes:

“On July 1, 2020, I was made aware - via a constituent call to the Ward 4 office - of a group called “Tucson Back the Blue” that had sent multiple inquiries to city officials with no response. Their request was to get permission and permits to safely paint a single blue line in front of the Main Police Station on Stone Ave. to illustrate their support of Tucson police officers who are in the line of duty. After receiving no response from any of their inquiries, they reached out to my office because we have a reputation for being responsive. My staff, with my support, forwarded the questions of the constituent to the City Manager and Transportation Director - which is our job - and asked that the correct department respond to him with the information he had requested. Within hours, the Transportation Department had contacted him and gave him information regarding the permit process.

Unfortunately, in doing my job of being a responsive local government official and escalating constituent concerns/questions, I have been accused of supporting white supremacists and white supremacy organizations. I am disgusted at this allegation, and equally disgusted at the continued tactics at play to divide our community for the sole purpose of pushing political agendas forward.

I remember when I was first stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I was often thanked for my service while out in the Tucson community in uniform. Many of those who thanked me didn’t support the Global War on Terrorism, or the US military’s presence in Afghanistan or Iraq, but they stood by the troops offering their support. They saw us as people. People from a very small segment of America’s population who stepped up and took an oath to protect and defend our country and our constitution. A small segment of our population who signed up to die - if necessary - so that others have the great freedoms that we have as Americans.

It is possible to support our Black community and support police officers at the same time. It is possible to acknowledge the racism that exists in so many of our American systems and institutions, while appreciating the willingness that women and men have to step into a career with no guarantee they will come home alive after their shift. It is possible to demand change while supporting the very people whom we demand the change from.

An antiquated approach - like divide and conquer - will not work today if we seek meaningful change. The only way we can successfully approach these complex issues is by viewing the challenges from all sides and making sure all voices in our community are truly heard. In order to get through these challenging times we must unite as a community and work toward comprehensive solutions that include everyone.”

The Tucson Police Officers Association responded to our request for comment on the matter and replied with the following statement:

“While the TPOA was not involved in planning the “blue line” painting that was planned for this Sunday, we are deeply saddened that yet another intended gesture of goodwill has been turned political and divisive.

The thin blue line represents the passion and integrity we bring to our work. It represents our mission to keep everyone in our community safe - and the risks we take to do so.

We reject, in the strongest possible terms, any association of the thin blue line with racism, hatred, and bigotry.

It is not meant to divide us. It is not meant to be a wall separating us. After all, we are you. We are your neighbor. Your co-worker. Your family. We are in this together.

We are so proud of Council Member Nikki Lee for her effort, and her statement regarding this incident. She has, as always, the best of intentions and we stand with her. Please read her statement below which clarifies many of the details of this event.

In the coming days we look forward to engaging with the community in constructive and positive ways. There is much to be done.”

The city of Tucson also responded to our requests for comment about the situation with the following statement form City Attorney Mike Rankin:

Honorable Mayor and Council members, and all – This afternoon I was advised that the City had received a request for permission to paint a message on a City street near the TPD main station. The request had come in through the Ward 4 council office. Council member Lee and her staff handled the request exactly correctly by referring the requestor to TDOTM and the City Manager’s Office so that the request could be administered in the same manner as any other similar requests. The City Manager contacted me to discuss the legal implications of processing and granting these types of requests. I advised the City Manager that we should not consider or grant any permits authorizing people to paint or otherwise mark our streets (or a permit to close the street for that work) for the purpose of conveying a message, regardless of the content of the proposed message. Doing so would open up our streets as a public forum for this purpose, and the award or denial of a permit request could not be based on the content of the message or the identity of the applicant/speaker. It is my opinion and advice that this would be an untenable situation that could quickly run out of control.

When asked about proof of white supremacy, Romero also responded to a tweet by KOLD News 13′s Dan Marries with a meme showing two photos. The first is a man flying the gay pride flag with the text “If you can fly yours” on it. The second picture shows a pick-up truck flying the Confederate flag.

“There’s nothing on my page that’s not really a Republican point of view, that is really it,” said Cesolini. “I almost say, ‘How dare you, Mayor Regina?’”

He calls her comments “slander” and says he now worries for his family’s safety.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen now that she put me out there painting me as something I’m not,” Cesolini said.

As he considers his legal options, another member of Back the Blue Tucson demands action.

“I am calling for [Romero] to immediately resign before the people have the pleasure of throwing her out of office,” said Ross Kaplowitch, the Vice President of the group.

Since they support law and order, Cesolini says they will not be painting the street as previously planned on Saturday.

However, the second Back the Blue event is going ahead as planned on Saturday from 9:30-11:30 a.m. A rally will be at the TPD substation on South Alvernon Way.

Organizers have asked volunteers to wear a “Thin Blue Line Flag” shirt or just a blue shirt. Organizers have also asked volunteers to bring blue line flags and signs to “show respect for our officers who deserve it.”

More information about the event can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/213809519632503/

KOLD News 13 shared photos of the BLM sign on Facebook and a majority of people responded positively to the message. Out of the more than 3,300 reactions, 2,700 of them were either a thumbs up or heart. Only 440 or so people reacted with the frowning face.

DID YOU SEE IT? A large Black Lives Matter message has been painted on Stone Avenue, near East Pennington Street, in downtown Tucson.

Posted by KOLD News 13 on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Romero and council woman Lane Santa Cruz were thanked by several people involved in the BLM painting project.

In a Facebook post, Santa Cruz thanked everyone involved for their effort.

Painting the words Black Lives Matter on the streets across our country is a step forward. It is not THE answer to...

Posted by The Office of Lane Santa Cruz Ward 1 on Saturday, June 20, 2020

Right now. Painting "BLACK LIVES MATTER" on Stone Avenue downtown. Pima County Supervisor Betty Villegas District5,...

Posted by Marjava Fragoso Ramirez on Saturday, June 20, 2020

Thanks, Regina and Lane... looks awesome.

Posted by Sky Jacobs on Sunday, June 21, 2020

Santa Cruz made headlines on June 23 when she claimed a community member died at the hands of TPD officers.

Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez died in April while in police custody. The corner said Ingram-Lopez’s cause of death was “sudden cardiac arrest in the setting of acute cocaine intoxication and physical restraint with cardiac left ventricular hypertrophy as a significant contributing condition.”

The manner of death has not been determined, but Ingram-Lopez’s toxicology report showed both benzoylecgonine and cocaine. Police were called to a home by Ingram-Lopez’s grandmother because he was allegedly drunk, nude and yelling. The TPD said Ingram-Lopez had a warrant out for a previous domestic violence incident.

Three of the officers involved in Ingram-Lopez’s arrest and death resigned, but the TPD said they would have been fired for violating several protocols.

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus later offered his resignation, but Ortega rejected it.

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