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Colleague Accuses Pittsfield City Councilor Of Posting “Dangerous, Racist Propaganda”

A screenshot of Pittsfield, MA City Councilor Earl Persip's response to fellow councilor Christopher Connell's post of an article about the false narrative of Irish slavery.
Josh Landes
Persip's original Facebook post about Connell's decision to share the article on the false narrative of Irish slavery.

At-Large Pittsfield, Massachusetts City Councilor Earl Persip is chiding long-serving Ward 4 City Councilor Christopher Connell for posting a link to  an article about the oft-debunked narrative of Irish slavery on Facebook. Persip says the post is an attack on the Black Lives Matter movement often deployed by racists online. Connell has openly voiced skepticism of the Black Lives Matter movement at city council meetings. He declined to comment about the now-deleted post when reached by WAMC News. WAMC spoke with Persip, the council’s only African American member, about why he chose to speak out against Connell.

PERSIP: For a local leader to continue to share false, a narrative that is just to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement that's been coming up on social media. You know, I had to speak up, I felt like it had to be put out there because it's important that we talk about the facts and how things really went. I'm not sure where he found that person from, but a couple clicks, I happened to look at that person's page. And it's full of anti-Black Lives Matter movement, all throughout the page, so you can see the racism on that person's page. To go ahead and share that without looking or thinking about what you were sharing- It's just, it's not responsible. And I think it's important for our leaders to talk about the right things and factual things. And, you know, to compare slaves that were owned by people, to servants who were, who came over from Ireland, worked, you know, not in the best conditions. And I'm not saying- I don't want to downplay what they went through, but they worked towards freedom, and they don't deal with racism today, to this day, because of the color of their skin. So for Chris to share that post, and just kind of, not think about it, and it just- Something had to be said, so I put it out there.

WAMC: You've worked with Chris for a long time. I've heard him, certainly covering council meetings, question aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement verbatim, in conversations about this issue. How does it impact his role on the council in your mind in this moment of this vital conversation in America today?

I think, his role needs to be- Is really to open up his eyes and recognize what's going on. And for people to, you know, just because he hasn't experienced the racism or he hasn't seen it happen, and- Doesn't mean it's not happening. So for people like Chris, who continue to kind of share these, kind of false narratives about the movement and false narratives that racism doesn't happen and, you know, the narrative of "pull your bootstraps up," and people talk about that. It's, it's not going to solve the issue. And it's a way- For Chris, just to share posts like this, it's dangerous. And I'm gonna, you know- And that's why I felt like I had to say something. I think if he was a strong, if Chris is a strong leader, and I think he is, he will recognize his mistake here and get educated. If not, he'll just continue to share these kind of, these kind of articles and things because he has a small fraction of people that support him that feed into that narrative, like "the Black Lives Matter movement is false or dangerous," or anything like that. So Chris, has a, Chris has a- This could be a turning point for Chris in a positive direction, or it could be Chris just keeps going down the same road. I think the people of Pittsfield, the majority of them, want to see our leaders paying attention to what's going on in today's society, and recognizing that there is racism out there. And recognizing police brutality does happen. You know, you can be pro-police, as people call it and still recognize there are police out there that are doing things and acting a certain way against people of color. So Chris- It's time for Chris and others to actually just step up to the plate and address the issue and talk about it. It's an uncomfortable conversation, but it needs to be had and sharing articles like this to try to debunk that just really hurts the whole process, in my opinion.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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