Wheeling Council Members Speak Out Against Hate
‘Visible Uptick in White Supremacist Activity’ Observed in Friendly City
WHEELING — Members of Wheeling City Council this week denounced acts of hate in the wake of an apparent racially-motivated vandalism, stating there is no place for it in the Friendly City.
One council member went on to maintain that recent incidents in the city give indication that white supremacy was on the rise in the area.
An incident occurred last weekend on Wheeling Island, where a teen’s vehicle was damaged with vandalism. The tires were slashed and mirrors were broken, but most disturbing was the fact that racial slurs and expletives were scratched into the paint of TeVon Minor’s car, leading to an outpouring of public outrage after images were posted to social media.
“There has been a visible uptick in white supremacist activity throughout my ward and the city in general, and I believe that’s something that deserves our full attention and vigilance moving forward,” Councilwoman Rosemary Ketchum told fellow members of Wheeling City Council this week.
Ketchum represents Ward 3, which includes East Wheeling, South Wheeling, Center Wheeling and Mozart. In May while Ketchum was campaigning for the Ward 3 seat on city council, she posted on her campaign’s social media site that racist paraphernalia had been posted throughout the city, and it was concentrated in her ward.
“As people who love Wheeling, we are working every day to build a city that is more inclusive, accepting and diverse,” Ketchum stated in a social media post proclaiming that “hate has no home in Wheeling” after the incidents occurred in May. “A place that calls out bigotry, hatred and discrimination — that is who we are.”
Ketchum said she and others have witnessed a startling increase in symbols of white supremacy throughout Ward 3, particularly in East Wheeling.
“Folks are sending me pictures of light posts and other locations where various stickers are placed — I’ve removed one myself,” she said. “While the posted propaganda I’ve seen seems to be from one group … I feel this is a disturbing trend I believe we should fully acknowledge and work toward finding solutions for as a community.”
Councilman Ben Seidler represents the Ward 2 neighborhoods of Wheeling Island, North Wheeling, Fulton, the lower end of Glenwood and the upper part of Downtown Wheeling. Seidler noted that the recent incident of vandalism took place in his ward, and the councilman has been outspoken about the act of hate since it occurred.
“To the young man and his family that this act of hate was directed towards, I want to tell you that I’m sorry this happened to you, I’m sorry that you experienced this in our neighborhood, and I’m sorry that you experienced this at all,” Seidler said during the recent meeting of city council. “To those individuals or individual who perpetrated this act of hate, I want to tell you — you are a coward. You’re wrong. Your behavior does not represent our city, and you’re not welcome here.
“Your day is coming, and I sure as heck hope you are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Seidler said he was “absolutely blown away with anger” seeing this kind of hate in his own neighborhood.
“I cannot believe that a person would drop to the level of vandalizing another person’s vehicle with such hate speech,” he said. “I’m thankful that this does not represent the overwhelming majority of the people in our community, but I want to be very clear here. If you think this kind of hate in any shape or form is acceptable, then it is time to have an honest conversation with yourself and check your heart. If there is one single solitary ounce of your body that is not angry about this, then you are the minority and you do not represent our community and the people in it. You do not represent my neighborhood and you do not represent me.”
Seidler said regardless of what anyone’s spiritual views, race, sexual preferences or background are, hate has never benefited anyone who promotes it.
“I still believe that we were placed on this earth to love one another,” Seidler said. “Hate wins you nothing. Hate will not make you happy. Hate has never made anyone happy. Stop hating. Quit it.”
People from all over the local community rallied around Minor and his family in the wake of the incident. Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, along with Advance Auto Parts and Tri-State Tint & Vinyl, were among the local businesses that came forward to help restore the damaged vehicle. Many others in the community have also stepped up to show their support to the family and to denounce this type of senseless activity in their neighborhoods.
“I’m really thankful to see all the people and all of the proud members of the community who stood up — the businesses and individuals that showed their love and support for this family and denounced this kind of hatred,” Seidler said.
The case of vandalism is under investigation by the Wheeling Police Department.