‘Black Press Only’: Meeting for Savannah, Ga., mayoral candidates bars white reporters at the door

There was no explanation for a sign that only allowed Black journalists into the meeting, but the political hopefuls there differed in their reactions to it

Organizers of a meeting to discuss an upcoming mayoral race in Georgia barred reporters from attending, unless they were African-American. (Eric Curl/Savannah Morning News via AP)

On Wednesday, a community meeting was held in Savannah, Ga., to hear several Black candidates for mayor talk about their platform for all the people. But there was one peculiar thing about the event — no white reporters were allowed to attend and cover it, Savannah Now reports.

A sign barring white reporters was posted at the Bolton Street Baptist Church where the public meeting was held inside the church where a sign read: “Black press only” on the doors.

The meeting was organized by Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, owner of the consulting firm, The Trigon Group, but would not comment on why he was barring white journalists.

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The discriminatory sign brought significant attention given that special interest groups and candidates running for public office meet all the time.

Savannah Alderman Van Johnson, is one of three candidates running for mayor. He attended the meeting and spoke outside to reporters who couldn’t gain entry.

“I came in and I gave my vision for an inclusive Savannah, a progressive Savannah, and I laid out a message of why I felt I was the best candidate for mayor,” Johnson said. “Believe me, I’m uniquely qualified for this opportunity, and I wanted to make sure the individuals assembled knew that.”

When a reporter asked him about the term “progressive” given that the church sign prohibited whites from entry, he responded:

“It’s not my meeting. Again, I was asked to come give a statement, and so I came and I gave a statement.”

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But Johnson sided with the sign’s messaging saying that he believes people should have the right to assemble on their own terms.

“If I was invited to a meeting, and I’m sure I will be, if I am, I will go there,” said Johnson.

“Again, I’m trying to relay a message. I’m trying to set forth a vision. I think part of the reason that we’re in this place of distrust and tension,” he continued. “I think we’re in need of leadership to help bring the people together, and certainly as the mayor of this city, I will attempt to bring people together.”

However, Johnson’s opponent, Regina Thomas, told WTOC the meeting was “polarizing, divisive and premature.” She said there is still plenty of time for candidates to qualify since the deadline isn’t until later this year. She opted out of attending the meeting.

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Louis Wilson, another candidate for mayor who attended gave his speech but didn’t want to comment about the restrictive policy banning whites.

“I didn’t plan the meeting so I can’t comment on that part,” he said. “I came to say what I had to say.”