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Charlotte, RNC Host, Condemns Trump's 'Racist Language'

City Council member Justin Harlow wrote a resolution condemning President Trump.

The Charlotte City Council Monday night approved a resolution that condemned President Trump, saying he used “racist and xenophobic language.”

All nine Democrats voted in favor of the resolution, which came a year after the City Council voted 6-5 to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.

But after the president's rally last week in Greenville, in which the crowd chanted “send her back" in reference to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., council member Justin Harlow crafted a resolution listing some of Trump's most controversial statements.

City clerk Stephanie Kelly read the resolution before the vote.

"Whereas the council deems it imperative to condemn racist and xenophobic language that only serves to stoke fear of others and to perpetuate division everywhere based on ethnicity, religion or race," she said.

After a lengthy discussion, council members voted 9-2 in favor of the resolution. All nine Democrats voted for it. The two Republicans voted no.

Council member Dimple Ajmera – who voted against the RNC a year ago – said the "send her back" chant made her cry. Ajmera came to the United States from India when she was a teenager.

"'Send her back.' Or, 'Go back.' That brings tears to my eyes," Ajmera said. "Because I’ve been called that many times, and I've been said that many times."

Ajmera and seven other Democrats were initially OK with bringing the RNC to Charlotte, even after the president said there were “very fine people on both sides” after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

Council member LaWana Mayfield, a Democrat, was the only council member to initially oppose bidding on the RNC back in January 2018. She said her colleagues could have made a stronger statement by stopping the city’s bid.

"The time to have done something was last year," she said. "You had nine Democrats and two registered Republicans on this council. You had five Democrats that voted no after the community became involved. We had four Democrats who voted with two Republicans to get us here. We knew exactly what this man was. We knew exactly what his rhetoric was going to be."

The council’s two Republicans objected strenuously to Harlow’s resolution.

Republican council member Tariq Bokhari said people today unfairly call people racist, just as people were called people witches in the 1600s. He tried to amend Harlow’s resolution.

"I’d like to propose that we change the wording to this, very simply: 'Whereas we condemn some forms of racism and xenophobia where it fits our narrative, and in doing so we are prepared to make assumptions as to what is in the the hearts of those saying it,'" he said.

Mayor Vi Lyles asked if he was serious.

Bokhari said it was "serious as the other one."

Republican Ed Driggs said he did not approve of many of Trump’s “utterances,” but that he supports him because he said Trump’s policies have been good for the county.

"He would not be where he is today if he were not tapping into the anger of many Americans who feel they have been treated badly by people on the other side of the aisle," Driggs said. "He didn't create the tension that we're experiencing. It isn't his making. It was there before."

Earlier in the day, council members met for more three hours in closed session with City Attorney Patrick Baker about the city’s contract with the RNC.

Baker told them that if council members tried to break the contract with the Republican National Committee, the RNC would likely take them to court – and could get a judge to force the city to host.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.