St. Louis Co. Commissioner Nelson Exited Moment of Silence For George Floyd Because He Felt Sick, He Says
Vice Chair Beth Olson: “He had other chances to speak to this issue and to express his support and express his respect for Mr. Floyd's life. He did not take those opportunities.”
VIRGINIA, Minn. – Gov. Tm Walz issued a proclamation for George Floyd Tuesday morning calling on Minnesotans to observe a moment of silence at the start of Floyd’s funeral for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, which is the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer was filmed with his knee to Floyd’s neck before he died.
One example of this moment of silence happened during a St. Louis County board meeting, and it was the same moment Commissioner Keith Nelson left the room.
FOX 21’s Dan Hanger talked to Nelson about his reason for leaving, and has one commissioner’s call on him and the rest of the board to do better.
“Just the 8 minutes-plus we were there, I looked around the room a little bit and everyone was thinking it — what would it had been like to be in that position,” said Mike Jugovich, St. Louis County board chair, who reflected on the moment of silence that the board held Tuesday. “It’s 2020. There is no place in St. Louis County for racism.”
Governor Walz’s request for the moment of silence came down during a recess during the county’s board meeting.
“Board members, could you please stay on, we have a proclamation from the governor,” Jugovich said.
But just as the reading of the proclamation began, longtime Commissioner Keith Nelson left the room telling Jugovich his stomach was upset.
“I understand … the timing probably wasn’t the best. But he did not feel well and he does have some health issues,” Jugovich said.
Nelson would miss the entire moment of silence and would return after the recess at 11:15 a.m. to continue with the rest of the board meeting but without any mention of his absence during the moment of silence, which board Vice Chair Beth Olson said was unacceptable during such unrest in the country.
“If there was a reason to be gone, then there would be even more of a reason to say why you were gone or to just say you were gone and that it was important that you should have been there, Olson said. “He had other chances to speak to this issue and to express his support and express his respect for Mr. Floyd’s life. He did not take those opportunities.”
Olson also wrote on Facebook after the meeting saying, “I’m so embarrassed, sad, angry and frustrated to serve on this board where flagrant racism abounds.”
Nelson told FOX 21 he is diabetic, “meant no disrespect” and would have participated in the moment of silence if he would have felt better at the time.
“I think Commissioner Olson is judgmental — and that has been a pattern that she’s had for the past year and a half,” Nelson said. “There’s nothing to clarify. I did nothing wrong, OK. There’s nothing to clarify. I’ve been told this 100 times this afternoon.”
“This situation in Minneapolis was a travesty. I mean, there’s no other word to describe it,” Nelson went on to say.
Commissioner Frank Jewell released the following statement to FOX 21 the day after this story aired saying, “It is not surprising to me at all that Commissioner Nelson left the meeting. All you have to do is look at his comments about refugees to know that he sees communities of color as the problem. When he left the meeting it was a slap in the face to all of those who face discrimination every day. I think more importantly, the Board and administration and a number of folks on line stood for that moment of silence, honoring George Floyd and asking for justice and change.”
And while board members may not see eye to eye on all issues these days, like a recent vote to not take a stand on whether refugees should be allowed to resettle in the county, there is clearly a call to step up as leaders.
“It’s something as a country as a whole needs to do better. We all need to do better,” Jugovich said.
“We’re at the top of the structure and we need to be showing with our actions that we’re committed for the long haul of making change,” Olson said. “My call to the public is to ask for a county board that will support change — and to ask for it.”
“Certainly I hope in the coming months, days, months and years that we can achieve real change,” Nelson said.