Baton Rouge school board calls for classmate to resign after viral video

“We, the members present, are calling for the immediate resignation of our colleague Connie Bernard,” school board vice president Tramelle Howard told reporters on Monday. “Over 400 years of pain and grief were exhibited Thursday night, and our colleague decided to ignore the cry of our community and totally misrepresent us as a school board.”

The board cannot remove a seated member, he said.

Amid a new calculation with systemic racism sparked by the police murder of George Floyd, the district met Thursday on a resolution to establish a committee to rename “Lee High School,” originally named after the general. Confederate Robert E. Lee.

But days before the hearing, board member Connie Bernard said she wanted to keep the name to honor the school’s legacy. She also encouraged people to dig deeper into Lee’s story, saying she released enslaved people on her plantation, according to CNN affiliate WVLA / WGMB.

In a video that has since gone viral, activist Gary Chambers Jr. addressed Bernard directly in the audience for his comments and for a photo of what appeared to be Bernard shopping online while the resolution was being discussed.

Finally, the school board resolution was unanimously approved, with all nine members, including Bernard, voting in favor, according to the meeting minutes.
Bernard has since apologized for his comments, according to CNN affiliate WBRZ.

“My comments last week about the appointment of Lee High School were callous, they have caused pain to others and led people to believe that I am an enemy of people of color, and I am deeply sorry,” he said. “I condemn racial injustice in any form. I promise to be part of the solution and to listen to the concerns of all members of our community. I am with you, in love and respect.”

‘A dog whistle message’

Chambers called Bernard an example of community racism and also called for his resignation during the hearing.

He told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night that commemorating Confederate figures has a severe impact.

“You can send a dog whistle message to blacks that no matter how far you’ve come, we will never recognize you equally,” Chambers said.

Schools and monuments should include African Americans’ historic elected officials in national memory, he said, suggesting that the school should be named after someone like Louisiana’s first black governor, PBS Pinchback.

“We need to know that there were people who defended us centuries ago,” he said. “The truth is that the people who were elected in the 19th century are the impetus for Jim Crow laws because they saw the power of black people. They saw the power of black unity and progress, so they immediately put it into practice laws that prevented that progress for 150 years, and then began honoring those people by naming buildings. “

Garcy Chambers Jr. addresses the audience on Thursday.

Chambers accuses Bernard of buying online during hearing

When Chambers stepped in to address the school board on Thursday, he brought in a photo of what he saw Bernard do during the hearing.

“I was planning to go up here and talk about how racist Robert E Lee was, but I’m going to talk about you, Connie,” Chambers said. “Sitting there shopping while talking about Robert E. Lee. This is a photo of you shopping while talking about racism in the history of this country.”

Bernard, who did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, told The Advocate on Friday that what people saw on his laptop was not his purchase, but a pop-up ad that he could not close.

“I wasn’t buying,” he told the newspaper. “I was actually taking notes, paying attention, reading comments online.”

However, Chambers later posted a video with a 20-second clip of his displacement on the shopping website.
The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee stands behind a crowd of hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of the

The Robert E. Lee Story

Bernard encouraged people to learn more about Lee to defend keeping the school as his namesake, but Chambers said Lee was a “brutal” slave master, citing a slave’s account of being beaten and he told the board to “stop being so in 1856.”

Lee personally owned enslaved people and took command of 189 others after his father-in-law died in 1857, according to the American Civil War Museum.

The father-in-law’s will stipulates that enslaved people be released within five years, but Lee asked the state courts to extend their control over them, the museum says. State courts denied his requests, and Lee officially released the enslaved people on December 29, 1862, just days before the Emancipation Proclamation.

There is a difference between the statues of Abraham Lincoln and the Confederate generals.
Lee also punished escape attempts harshly. In 1859, he ordered the lashing of three enslaved people who attempted to escape, according to an 1866 account by Wesley Norris.
“In the meantime, General Lee remained standing and frequently ordered (a county agent) to wear it well, a mandate he did not fail to pay attention to; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, General Lee ordered the supervisor to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done, “Norris said on the account.
On Facebook last week, the school board member who introduced the resolution, Dadrius Lanus, asked Bernard to take a closer look at this story.

“I tell you, Mrs. Bernard, that Robert E. Lee is not a man to be honored by our students, especially students of color!” he wrote. “Forcing our students to attend a school with that name is not only degrading, it is culturally insensitive and a violation of our students’ rights!”

CNN’s Amanda Jackson and Nicole Williams contributed to this report.