Coralville City Councilmember who called Black Lives Matter ‘criminals’ resigns

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Protesters in front of Coralville Police Department, June 1, 2020. Jason Smith/Little Village

Longtime Coralville City Councilmember Tom Gill resigned on Friday, three days after making inflammatory statements about Black Lives Matter during a council meeting.

“BLM, to a lot of people, is a great organization,” the five-term councilor said near the end of last Tuesday’s Zoom meeting, which was streamed publicly. “But BLM to me is a bunch of criminals, and I have zero tolerance for criminals … And that’s why I have zero tolerance for BLM. I’m sorry, but I will fight you to my living end. I do not tolerate criminal activity.”

Coralville City Councilmember Tom Gill (left, mustache) interrupts Meghann Foster as she discusses her conversations with families of color at a protest. Tuesday, July 14, 2020. — video still

Gill later told the Press-Citizen he was referring to graffiti left around Kinnick Stadium and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics following a June 6 march by the Iowa Freedom Riders, an Iowa City-based group advocating for racial equity and police reform. IFR is not affiliated with the national Black Lives Matter organization, and has frequently discouraged vandalism at their events.

Some of Gill’s fellow councilmembers, including Meghann Foster, Mitch Gross and Coralville Mayor John Lundell, responded to Gill’s comments by expressing their support of Black Lives Matter. Lundell released an official statement Friday.

“The City of Coralville is continuing the process of conducting a comprehensive review of racial inequities in our community. … During an update of this review at the July 14th City Council meeting, inappropriate statements were made by City Councilor Tom Gill,” the mayor wrote. “His comments were offensive to me and the other members of the City Council. They in no way reflect the beliefs or values of the Council, me, or our staff.”

Lundell said “many community members” have reached out to express their outrage over Gill’s rhetoric, and while the controversy has “temporarily interrupted” the city’s efforts, the council is still committed to their racial equity work.

Later in the day, the city released another brief statement: Gill had resigned.

“I am grateful for Tom Gill’s contributions during the past 29 years, a time of significant growth and development in Coralville,” Lundell said in the statement. “I wish him the very best.”

The reason for Gill’s departure has not been confirmed. City staff will conduct research towards selecting a new member, which the City Council will discuss at a future meeting, Lundell said.

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