In the midst of a presidential contest in which 1.5 billion dollars have already been spent, West York Borough, a municipality in York County, is making national and even international news right now. The mayor of West York, who also is a Republican, posted racist and oppressive public images on his Facebook page that negatively target Black people, women and Muslims. The mayor was requested, but refused, to resign from office and it turns out, without criminal charges, the Borough Council can’t remove him. Put People First! PA and the York Organizing Committee condemn these irresponsible and dangerous actions on the part of a public servant, that set the stage for violence and fear in our communities.

The Mayor supervises police, sets public policy in terms of housing and public safety, breaks Borough council tie votes. If he is willing to publicly dehumanize community members for their gender, ethnic background, heritage, or religion, then he has no place making decisions on behalf of the community.

Members of the York organizing committee, armed with signs, passionate speeches, and the power of their presence, joined a peaceful protest at the West York Borough City council meeting. The people power generated by Put People First, along with several other local groups, led the council to unanimously censure the mayor and authorize the Borough solicitor to seek any possible legal means to initiate removal proceedings.

It wasn’t enough, and will not be enough until this mayor resigns or is removed from office. Members of the York organizing committee will be gathering letters from West York business owners and petition signatures to submit to statewide legislators, but we will also be there, speaking truth to power, until Mayor Wasko is no longer in office.

This isn’t just about a publicity stunt during an election year. Pennsylvania is considered a prize for either party in this election, but once election day is over and the cameras go away, we’ll all still be here. Put People First is a non-partisan organization. It’s not about the Democratic or Republican parties, neither of which represent the interests of everyday people. It’s about standing up to a climate of hate which is fed to the people through the actions of so-called leaders and amplified by the media, which infects the people and turns communities on each other. Put People First brings everyday people of all backgrounds together while the social media posts of Mayor Wasko, and the laws and policies of the powers that be that threaten our everyday survival tear families and communities apart.

“We always hear about these proud proclamations of racism by public servants across the nation and as bad as we want to be with those being affected, a demanding life and long distances keep us from physically being there. When I heard Mayor Wasko of the West York Borough was one of these proud racists, a twenty minute drive from my home to the borough seemed like a walk down the street. I had to be there. As a black male, everyone who spoke against his hatred told a fraction of my story. Soon it became clear that even the most seemingly reclusive individuals garnered the best of themselves to denounce the racial divide in our nation. Everyone understood that Wasko was merely a symptom of what needs to be fixed. Borough council created a space of respect and community. They understand division inhibits growth, and if division must happen, it must be with the ones who refuse to grow within themselves. Mayor Wasko’s term was needed as the catalyst for what will become one of many revolutionary movements against racism to affect change from the ground up.” – Terrell Turner, York Organizing Committee Member

Leave a Reply