For Arizona NAACP State Conference President Charles Fanniel, the idea of boycotting Prescott over racially disparaging comments made by a Prescott State Legislator was inconsistent with the action the Prescott City Council took on Dec. 4.
On that day, a majority of council members took a strong stance against the remarks that Arizona Rep. David Stringer had made to Arizona State University students in November.
The remarks, which were recorded and later published in the Phoenix New Times, included an assertion by Stringer that African immigrants “don’t blend in,” and that non-English-speaking immigrants create a burden for the U.S.
Despite the council’s action, East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr. later put out a call on social media for a travel boycott of Prescott until Stringer is removed from office.
In his reasoning for the call for a boycott, Tatem cited the fact that Stringer had been overwhelmingly re-elected to office in November, despite earlier racially disparaging comments. The situation was later aggravated by a racial-slur-filled letter to Tatem from Chino Valley-area resident Tony Imbronone.
Still, Fanniel and Mel Hannah, chairman of the Arizona Commission of African American Affairs, say the City Council’s swift reaction to Stringer’s comments was “commendable.”
A group of Phoenix-area NAACP and Commission of African American Affairs officials traveled to Prescott on Tuesday, Jan. 22, to present letters of support to the city.
“Our purpose on addressing you, the Mayor and City Council, is to commend and publicly express to you our appreciation on your stand on statements made by Representative Stringer,” Hannah told the council, adding that Stringer’s statements “clearly conflict with the very core of democracy and to the tenants of the U.S. Constitution and Constitution of Arizona.”
Fanniel also read a letter of support from the NAACP Arizona State Conference, stating: “I want to commend you Mayor, your council members, city manager, citizens and organization that took an immediate bold stance to denounce the negative, racist and divisive comments made by Representative David Stringer.”
After the meeting, Fanniel said Prescott’s quick action in condemning Stringer’s comments helped to convince him that a boycott would be unfair.
“When I heard that there was a comment made by one of our members to call for a boycott, I immediately made some phone calls and talked to some individuals, and it was brought to my attention that the mayor and City Council had already come out and denounced the comments made by David Stringer,” Fanniel said, adding that other community groups had made similar statements.
That, in turn, led him to believe that a boycott of the entire community was not appropriate. “I thought ‘why should the good citizens of Prescott be punished, who had no part in his divisiveness?’” Fanniel said.
The boycott was never endorsed by the statewide NAACP, he said, noting that such a measure would have had to start with the Arizona State Conference, and then be called “in conjunction with all of our bodies.”
The letters of support occurred after Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr’s reading of the city’s proclamation on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which stated that the city was “keeping Martin Luther King’s dream for a better future alive.”
The presentation of Fanniel and Hannah’s letters of support generated applause from the full council chambers. Hannah said after the meeting, “I was very pleased that the room was filled with what felt like very supportive folks, so that’s very encouraging.”