The subject of the City of Rocky Mount apparently being interested in having the words “Black Lives Matter” painted on the roof of an old railroad track-side loading dock along Falls Road downtown prompted a local man to express his opposition during Monday’s City Council meeting.
What apparently never has occurred, however, is any kind of a news release being issued by the municipal administration about the project.
The Telegram found out about the proposal via a posting on the municipality’s website seeking a quote from vendors and the newspaper published a story on July 9. The request for a quote called the project “Black Lives Matter Painting.”
City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney has maintained a strict protocol about the Telegram’s access to news-related information. Specifically, questions from the Telegram staff about municipal business — and routine requests for comments from department heads and senior-level staff — have to be submitted in advance to the City of Rocky Mount’s Communications, Marketing and Public Relations Department.
So in preparation for the July 9 story about the project, the Telegram emailed a list of questions to a city spokesman seeking further information, but there was no response as of press time — and presently no news release about the project appears on the municipality’s website.
The Telegram on Monday afternoon emailed the spokesman an extensive list of questions about a variety of matters, primarily, but not exclusively, regarding the revitalization of downtown. That email included another request for information about the Black Lives Matter painting project.
The information sought in the email on Monday afternoon generally was along the lines of what was emailed to the spokesman prior to the publication of the July 9 story.
The Telegram in the email on Monday afternoon made clear the newspaper is interested in:
- Who came up with the idea for the project and why.
- Why this location was chosen.
- What purpose the project would serve.
- How much it would cost.
- Who would pay for the project.
- When the work would start and when the work would be completed.
The Telegram, if provided with a response to the email seeking information about the project, will include the response in a follow-up story.
The rooftop of the downtown structure is between the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd and the Rocky Mount Event Center.
During the public comment part of Monday’s City Council meeting, Perry LaGrange, in stating his opposition to the project, told the panel he believes the Black Lives Matter movement employs tactics of fear, intimidation and violence and is a Marxist movement disguised as racial unrest.
LaGrange implored the municipality to allow for a referendum in November to give residents a choice as to what they believe should be on the rooftop there.
LaGrange suggested a mural of the Event Center, with Rocky Mount’s longtime past slogan “City on the Rise,” or honoring the late Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Buck Leonard, the late jazz great Thelonious Monk or slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King spoke in Rocky Mount in 1962.
During Monday’s council meeting, Morrie Minges, who regularly addresses the council, noted she is a resident of Ward 7.
Minges told the panel she wanted to know whether the project has been put on hold and said she is worried the municipality might have received a way-high bid for the project.
“Of course black lives matter. All lives matter,” Minges said.
Minges said she did not know the project “was even on the horizon” of things the municipality wanted to do.
“I thought the majority ruled, but maybe it’s just this council that rules, because nobody asked me my opinion,” Minges said. “Of course it doesn’t mean that big a deal, but are we actually asking our people in our district what we would think would be a good idea?”
Neither Small-Toney nor the council issued any response to the comments by LaGrange and Minges.
Several minutes earlier, there had been no reference to the project by Small-Toney as part of her routine community update to the council and viewers of council meetings.