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Prescott Mayor, NAACP East Valley President set to meet over travel boycott triggered by Stringer comments

East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr. (AP file photo)
Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli. (Courier file photo)

East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr. (AP file photo) Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli. (Courier file photo)

In the wake of last week’s call by the NAACP for a travel boycott of Prescott, a meeting is expected to occur this week between the president of the East Valley branch of the civil rights organization and the mayor of Prescott.

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli and East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem, Jr. both reported Monday that they plan to meet to discuss the situation that arose this past week over State Rep. David Stringer’s recent racial comments.

“I’ve spoken with Greg, and we’ve agreed to meet this Friday,” Tatem said, noting that he expects the initial meeting to take place in private.

Mengarelli said the two will meet in Prescott on Friday, Dec. 14, to further discuss Tatem’s call for a boycott of Prescott until Stringer leaves the legislature.

In a Dec. 4 letter to incoming Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, Tatem wrote: “Until Rep. Stringer is removed from office, the NAACP will recommend a travel advisory on the City of Prescott advising our members, supporters and allies to discontinue any shopping, travel, and lodging in hotels in Prescott, AZ, effective immediately.”

The letter was in reaction to Stringer’s recorded comments in November during which the Republican legislator from Prescott maintained that immigrants from Africa “don’t blend in,” and that non-English speaking immigrants pose a burden on the U.S.

Tatem’s letter called Stringer’s comments “racially insensitive and offensive.” He added that he could “not sit idly by or be silent while lawmakers are telling our children and our future leaders that ‘Black people don’t fit in.”

On Monday, Tatem said he felt it would “irresponsible” of him as a leader to “not put the brakes on and examine” such comments.

Since Stringer’s comments were published by the Phoenix New Times earlier this month, a number of local officials – including six of the seven Prescott City Council members – have asked for Stringer’s resignation.

In response, Stringer told the Prescott Valley Town Council on Thursday, Dec. 6, that he has no intention of resigning from the legislature.

“I am not going to disenfranchise the thousands and thousands of people who just returned me to office a month ago,” Stringer said at the Thursday meeting.

On Monday, Tatem referred to that response and said Stringer “has doubled down and tripled down” on his comments since the NAACP’s Dec. 4 call for a boycott.

And even though the Prescott City Council took quick action to condemn Stringer’s comments on Dec. 4, Tatem pointed out that the community had overwhelmingly re-elected Stringer to office despite his earlier racial comments. (This past summer, Stringer said immigration “represents an existential threat to the United States,” and that there are not “enough white kids to go around” in Arizona schools).

“I would love to have a public forum with (Stringer), maybe in a debate format, to see the full context of where he’s coming from,” Tatem said.

Mengarelli said he hopes his meeting with Tatem on Friday would result in a resolution of the boycott. “The bottom line is to come to an agreement where they’re not boycotting our city,” the mayor said Monday.

Mengarelli, who said last week that he had reached out to Tatem after learning of the call for a boycott, added, “I hope by meeting with some of us, (the NAACP) will see that our city doesn’t have racial tension or bias, and we are welcoming to everyone.”

Stringer did not respond to a Daily Courier telephone request for comment on Monday.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or cbarks@prescottaz.com.

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