Ann Arbor City Council members kneel during Pledge of Allegiance to protest inequality

4 City Council members decide to kneel in protest

By Priya Mann - Reporter , Derick Hutchinson

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Four members of the Ann Arbor City Council took a knee Monday night during the Pledge of Allegiance to protest inequality.

Across the country, we've seen the protests on the sidelines and in classrooms, but now it has spread to City Council chambers.

The idea to take a knee came from a third-term council member who came to the country as a refugee 25 years ago. She is an American citizen who raised her family here and said she won't stop fighting for equality.

"My patriotism will continue by challenging the status quo," Councilwoman Smui Kailasapathy said.

At Monday night's meeting, council members Kailasapathy, Chip Smith, Jason Frenzel and Chuck Warpehoski took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance.

"We haven't lived up to those words of the pledge,"Warpehoski said. "We haven't lived up to the ideals that our flag is calling us to, and so let's take a moment to reflect on that."

Warpehoski wrote a passionate blog post before the meeting, writing that, "To take a knee is an act of attention, of concern, and out of respect."

"It's important that the values that I was elected to serve -- those values of inclusion, those values of equity before the law -- that we take a stand for them," Warpehoski said.

The gesture comes during a nationwide movement in which NFL players have taken a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

Last month, the decision by a Farmington Hills middle school student to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance made headlines across the country.

Reactions in Ann Arbor were mixed.

"I wouldn't do it that way, but I have no problem with them doing it because it's their choice," one resident said.

"That is not appropriate at all," another resident said.

"At this point, it doesn't matter to me because they're going to do what they want to do regardless, so who are we to say?" another resident said.

Council members said they're received a ton of feedback.

"What my hope is, is that when we disagree, we can disagree in a way that's respectful and courteous," Warpehoski said. "Not all the emails have been like that."

"They feel I'm disrespecting the country," Kailasapathy said. "It is not disrespect. When you work hard to make this country a better place, it is out of respect."

Kailasapathy and Warpehoski said the bulk of those negative emails have been from people who live outside Ann Arbor and outside Michigan. They said they appreciate the feedback.

Both council members said they wanted to take a stand by taking a knee this week, but they've made their point. They said they will stand for the Pledge of Allegiance next week.

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