- Tony Doris Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Riviera Beach Councilman Terence Davis, reacting to a community member pressing at a council meeting last week for his recall, referred to the turbaned man as, “the gentleman with the rag around his head.”
Continuing his comments, Davis also called him “the gentleman who had the thing wrapped around his head” and “the gentleman who came before us with the white thing on his head.”
Davis insisted Thursday his words were in no way meant as a religious slur. They were just a way of referring to resident Amon Yisrael without mentioning him by name at the meeting, while taking him to task for disrespecting the council, he said. “I didn’t call him a raghead. I said what he had on his head.”
“I could never tell you what particular religion (he is) until you told me,” the councilman said. “My comments were about what he said about the city of Riviera Beach and keeping people riled up about misinformation about Riviera Beach.”
Davis said he respects everyone’s political and religious points of view, “for anyone, including him.”
Yisrael said Wednesday his white turban is a diadem, a form of religious crown he wears as a Hebrew Israelite, part of the Nation of Yahweh.
Davis’ slights didn’t faze him, he said.
“I realize Terence Davis is just an unlearned person who lacks moral fortitude,” Yisrael said. “Our goal is to recall him, Lynne Hubbard and Dawn Pardo. He’s exhibiting his mind.
“Was it rude? Yes, and very disrespectful of him, to be an elected official and want to attack a citizen for exercising a process that’s part of the process, which is to recall…. It was rude, but that’s Terence Davis.”
During the public comment section of the videotaped meeting Oct. 27, held to begin selecting an interim city manager, Yisrael took to the microphone to criticize Davis and the other two board members who voted to fire City Manager Jonathan Evans in September. Yisrael, who is leading a petition drive for a recall vote to oust the three, urged residents to sign the petition.
“An unjust land is an abomination to the just. An unjust person is an abomination to a just person,” Yisrael said during his allotted three minutes, citing a Bible passage from Proverbs. He defined “abomination” as “something or someone which is morally disgusting, who practices dishonest business practices.”
He urged the public to read Sunday’s Palm Beach Post special report on council member overspending, and to gather and turn in petition signatures.
Councilman Davis, in turn, urged the media to focus on positive events in Riviera Beach and to engage in conversation and input about issues in the city. “Don’t rally people for hate,” he said, immediately after calling Yisrael “the gentleman with the rag around his head.”
Anyone listening to Yisrael should do a background check on him, Davis said.
A check revealed that Yisrael, now 61, was about 18 in 1974 when he was arrested on a charge of felony marijuana possession.
As an adult, he founded an organization to paint senior citizens’ homes, and served on advisory boards for the police chief, Community Redevelopment Agency and Riviera Beach Community Development Corporation. He co-founded the Committee for a Better Riviera Beach and the Riviera Beach Business Association.
In 2012, the Riviera Beach City Council named him Citizen of the Year.
Council Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson agreed Davis stepped out of bounds.
“I felt it was disrespectful for him to refer to Mr. Yisrael in that manner,” she said Wednesday. “Each councilperson is an elected leader, so we should always carry ourselves in a professional manner, particularly while speaking from the dais.”
Davis said Thursday that Yisrael had disrespected the council with his words and by pushing ahead with the recall rather than meeting with council members for a respectful discussion of the issues.
“He was talking very nasty, disrespectful stuff to my colleagues and myself,” Davis said. “He had an opportunity to have one-on-one discussions with us about what he chooses to agree or disagree with us on. He chose to use a hatred tactic to rile this community up. …When does it stop?”
As a result of the controversy over the manager’s firing, the mostly African-American council has received racist emails from constituents, Davis said, adding that The Post should focus on that and on racism all around the country, rather than on one African-American man’s dispute with another, he said.