By Katie Nix
Posted June 8th 2018
One person was removed by police from a Lorain City Council meeting Monday night, which ended with a verbal altercation between members of the audience that was sparked by a Council member’s remarks on Facebook.
Councilman Dennis Flores, D-2nd Ward, recently came under fire for what some deemed racially insensitive comments made on Facebook after Andre Eugene Hines, 23, suffered multiple gunshot wounds near Club Our Space, 201 E. 29th St., on May 27 and later died as a result of his injuries.
The remarks prompted a planned march prior to the explosive meeting by a former political opponent, Kyriece Brooks. Six to eight people joined him.
“(We’re) marching because what this councilman has said is disrespectful, and it does not describe the black community,” Brooks said. “He don’t care about the black community, and it’s time for us to stand up and make a change in this community and it starts today.”
Then, during the meeting itself, local activist Inez James was granted the unusual permission to address the Council — something usually not permitted at regular meetings — because she’d written a letter to the Council regarding the Flores’ Facebook comments.
“I do believe I am a leader, and leaders lead by example,” she said. “Dennis Flores, you hold a leadership position in this community. I am here today because leaders do not deserve a pass for making racist comments that mock, disrespect, stereotype and belittle other cultures and businesses. Leaders should have zero tolerance for this type of behavior, and I charge this body of leaders to rise up and take action.”
When others in attendance were not allowed to address the Council, too, Councilman Angel Arroyo, D-6th Ward, took issue.
“If we’re going to open this book we might as well go all the way in,” he said. “This is a government meeting for us to discuss government issues. The comments made by Mr. Flores disrespected not only the people of his ward — and nothing I say here isn’t something I haven’t already told Mr. Flores — and people in my ward.”
He was outvoted 8-1.
James, however, readily spoke up during her time at the microphone.
“If you feel that Dennis Flores’ words of mocking black and brown people were funny and silly and not disrespectful and damaging then you are not a leader and a huge part of the problem,” she said. “If you are not here today to demand zero tolerance for Dennis Flores’ actions and to hold him accountable as a leader in this international city, then you are not a leader.”
Flores reiterated an apology for his comments at the meeting.
“I’ve already publicly apologized but for those of you who have not read or heard that apology, I sincerely apologize for my comments on Facebook and I’m going to leave it right there,” he said.
One man who wanted to speak — Andre Massey — was escorted out by the auxiliary police when he refused to sit down.
And then, after the meeting was over, two residents who attended the meeting got into a shouting match.
One of them, Bill Madanski, said more crime and problems occur on the south side of the city as opposed to the west side, where he lives.
“You don’t see any trouble at the Croatian Club or (Italian-American Veterans),” he said. “It’s always South Lorain in trouble. Always South Lorain. Always South Lorain. Always something in South Lorain.”
Resident Michelle Wright, who was sitting a row behind Madanski, said “No it’s not” and before long the two were yelling over each other to the point where it could barely be understood what they were saying.
“How dare you?” Wright said to Madanski. “People like you teach your kids to hate and they’re probably mixed. You probably don’t even like them and you don’t like yourself.”
“There’s no problems on the west side,” he responded.
The fight only stopped when Arroyo, Councilwoman Mary Springowski, D-at large, and Police Chief Cel Rivera helped Wright out of the room.
The controversy involving Flores started when, at 2:50 a.m. May 27, Flores wrote on his personal Facebook wall: “Here we go … sirens at 2:48 a.m. like clock work.”
Mark Davis — a man Flores described as an acquaintance who volunteered for his campaign — commented with: “It be like dis if da weedz man rips me off I got my hi point 40 on dat a** n if I rip off da weeds man he gonna have his hi point pointed at me for realz.. Pop Pop…”
After that, Flores replied: “Brothaz be at da club spending weedz man’s money, mf’er ‘N’ you got my money? POP, POP, POP POP cuz that’z how we roll in So Lo…”
Following the comments, Flores faced backlash on social media and was named in a lawsuit by Anthony Barnwell, who is the manager of The Cotton Club at 1766 E. 28th St. in Lorain, who is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages, accrued interest, court costs and reasonable attorney fees in a total amount not to exceed $15,000.”
The suit alleges Flores accused The Cotton Club of being a hub for violence, prostitution and drugs in Facebook posts. Flores also is accused of saying the victims were shot at The Cotton Club or the “Club” was somehow involved and also of being “racially insensitive, inflammatory and knowingly false.”