City Council Condemns Racism with Proclamation

Just My Essentials’ owner Chanel Wapner at the City Council meeting to express her appreciation of the support she received from the community on Monday, Oct. 5. (Jorge Rodriguez/Clovis Roundup)

After a locally black-owned business in Old Town Clovis was broken into and vandalized with hate messages, the city council wanted to condemn such acts of racism in the community and held a proclamation doing so.

The proclamation condemned racism, discrimination, bigotry, bias and hate speech in the community. Each one of the councilmembers, along with Mayor Drew Bessinger read parts of the proclamation to show solidarity in condemning the acts of racism in the community.

After the proclamation was made Mayor Bessinger asked the staff to find a suitable place where the proclamation can be displayed for everyone to see.

“These are foundational values that every community should have and I believe does have,” Bessinger said. “We need to continually remember that sometimes people fail and we need to be there to help them, we need to stand up for people who are being victimized.”

After his comments, Bessinger asked if anyone of the councilmembers had any comments.

Councilmember Lynne Ashbeck thanked the fellow councilmembers for being part of the resolution and calling out racism for what it is and invited other organizations to also adopt this proclamation.

“As leaders we have the privilege and the obligation of calling out racism when we see it and it is not enough to call it out, but is a place to start,” Ashbeck said. “What we saw in Clovis on September 26, is not acceptable under any circumstances and it will not be tolerated.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jose Flores said that no one should be judged for having different attributes and that as Americans, we should all respect each other.

“We can make a difference as individuals to make this nation a stronger, stronger nation, only together can we do that.” Flores said.

Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua thanked his fellow councilmembers for taking such a position and he was also proud of the staff for the quick response and taking care of legal aspects of the situation.

“I’m proud of our community, the way it has responded through reading comments on social media posts, to those who have actually reached out to Chanel and her family,” Mouanoutoua said. “To those who have been discriminated against and not heard, who feel like they can’t come forward, this is a city that if you come forward, we will stand with you.”

Councilmember Bob Whalen said that his mom was discriminated against when she was a child and that he didn’t want anyone to feel like his mother and others have felt in the past.

“We are not people who tear others down, we are people who build others up,” Whalen said. “I’m just really thankful that I belong to a council that puts this as a priority, city staff that has this as a priority and a community which will make sure that we keep it a priority.”

After that Bessinger thanked Councilmember Ashbeck, because this proclamation was her idea. Bessinger also mentions that the outreach and outpouring of compassion really speaks about the community that Clovis is.

Chanel Wapner who is the owner of the vandalized business, Just My Essentials, had a chance to speak to the council during the meeting. Wapner said that she was surprised by the events, but she was most surprised by the outpouring support from the community.

“I wasn’t seen as a victim, I was seen as part of this community. That Clovis decided that this isn’t right, this isn’t supposed to happen here,” Wapner said. “I didn’t put down roots anywhere. So for the first time at this age I have roots and my roots are in Clovis California and I’m so proud and humble for that.”

Wapner said that once her shop reopens she plans to have a block party to thank everyone for welcoming her as part of the community.

Jorge Rodriguez has a passion for journalism and wants to bring the community information and great stories. After high school Jorge joined the U.S. Army and while in active duty he was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in college he worked for the Fresno City College Rampage and the Fresno State Collegian newspapers. He graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a degree in print journalism.