GENEVA — A growing chorus of residents — many speaking at City Council’s meeting Wednesday evening — is calling on At-Large Councilor Frank Gaglianese to resign from Council over remarks he made at a Back the Blue rally July 19 that were captured on video and shared widely on social media.
“We are deeply troubled by the comments made by Councilor Gaglianese and feel that he is no longer fit to represent our great city,” Lucile Mallard, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said in a letter that was read by City Clerk Lori Guinan.
It was one of numerous calls for Gaglianese’s resignation during the public comment portion of the meeting.
In a video from the Back the Blue rally, Gaglianese was heard not only denigrating a July 18 Hobart and William Smith Colleges police accountability virtual forum but also making a threat, saying “The College did their whole thing? For police accountability? If I could have got a gun and shot the squares on my computer screen and killed everybody … disgusting.”
He also remarked on video: “This is what the silent majority is all about. This is the country, not the minority little squawkers that think that their voices are being heard. It’s not. This is what it’s all about. You keep poking the bear and more people like this will be coming out.”
He also said in the video that he would vote against police-reform measures before Council, which include a police accountability board.
Gaglianese issued an apology on Facebook Sunday, saying he regretted his remarks, but he said Monday that he would not resign.
Mayor Steve Valentino and the People’s Peaceful Protest were among the first to call for Gaglianese’s resignation. And Wednesday afternoon, the NAACP did as well, calling for an “immediate resignation.”
The NAACP said, “Gaglianese made several comments that were unbecoming of the office of a Geneva city councilor. ... The words used by Councilor Gaglianese were not a ‘slip of the tongue’ or brought about by ‘frustration’; his words appear to be strategically planned, premeditated, preconceived and placed such that his allies could hear across the state of New York. It is our sincerest belief that the words used by Councilor Gaglianese (in context) have become the ‘code’ and underpinning language that supports the continual nurturing and sustaining of racism across our nation.
“And then, to add language similar to that of a terrorist… ‘I could have got a gun and shot the squares on my computer screen and killed everybody… disgusting’ is unthinkable.”
Some 30 people signed up to speak at the City Council meeting, which once again was held via Zoom because of the coronavirus. No one spoke in favor of Gaglianese, who was in on the meeting along with all other City Councilors. A number of people who took part in the HWS forum spoke and demanded Gaglianese’s resignation, although without using his name directly, a Council policy.
Janette Gayle said that since moving to Geneva a couple of years ago, she had always felt safe. Not anymore.
“Thanks to one city councilor’s threatening language, that has changed,” she said.
She said Gaglianese had used “violent, threatening language,” and that he had broken the trust with his constituents.
On a computer, Heather May pulled up a still of the online HWS police accountability forum that she took part in.
“I occupied that square,” she said, referring to Gaglianese’s video remarks on shooting the squares.
And, May said, while Gaglianese may have been speaking figuratively, such words can lead to violence by others.
She said a comment was made on social media backing Gaglianese’s remarks.
“I wonder how many people in our community feel that way,” she said.
Virgil Slade, another forum participant, said people need to be held accountable for their actions, and he called Gaglianese’s apology “insincere.”
Jess Farrell, another participant in the forum, said the at-large councilor has broken the trust.
“This is not just an average citizen saying something,” she said. “City councilors have a higher standard.”
The public comment portion of last night’s meeting lasted about two hours, after which Council went onto regular business. None of the counselors spoke during the public comment session, other than Anthony Noone, who read a letter from city resident Peter Gillotte.
The Times went to press before Council took any actions.