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White Tarrant councilman uses racial slur against Blacks during meeting

The Alabama Democratic Part is calling on Tarrant Councilman Tommy Bryant to resign after the outburst.

Tarrant Councilman Tommy Bryant, standing, speaking during Monday's council meeting.

The Alabama Democratic Party is calling for the resignation of Tarrant City Councilman John Bryant, who, during a Monday council meeting, used a racial slur about Blacks 

Bryant, who is white, stood during the meeting and yelled, “Do we have a house n—-r in here?,” as first reported by Bama Politics. 

“Last night, Tarrant City Council Member John ‘Tommy’ Bryant stood up and used the N word at a City Council Meeting. He is a racist and unfit to serve,” said Wade Perry, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, in a statement Tuesday. “He now joins fellow racists and Republicans Rep. Will Dismukes, Blount County Commissioner Dean Calvert as embarrassments to Alabama and the Republican party.”

“All Alabamians should be calling on Republican political leaders like Governor Kay Ivey and US Senate Candidate Katie Britt to demand the immediate resignation of these overt racists,” Perry continued. “Alabama still has a long way to go when it comes to race, but cozying up to the KKK and using the N word should make you unfit to serve. These racists belong in the history books with Bull Connor and George Wallace, not on the taxpayer’s payroll.”

There has been turmoil in Tarrant City Hall since its first Black mayor was elected to office in August, that mayor, Wayman Newtown, told The Daily Beast, which reported on conflicts between the mayor, the former police chief, some white residents and council members who Newton said opposed his needed changes. 

Bryant’s comments at Monday’s meeting came after someone in the audience said Bryant’s wife had used the n-word in a social media post. Mayor Wayman Newton had been discussing social media posts made by Bryant’s wife that he said disparaged him prior to the outburst. 

“The n-word. Let’s get to the n-word. Do we have a house n—-r in here? Do we? Do We? Would she please stand up,” Bryant says, pointing to City Councilwoman Veronica Freeman, seen at around the one-hour and 41-minute mark in a video of the meeting posted by the city. 

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“That’s what Mrs. Freeman was called,” Councilwoman Debbie Matthews says. 

“That’s what the mayor called her. What do y’all think about that? Huh? Y’all like that?” Bryant said. 

“In executive session,” Matthews says. “It was not any of us.” 

Freeman appears to begin crying, leaves the council chambers briefly and can be heard crying just outside before she returned. 

“What you’re seeing has basically been brewing for years and years and years,” Newton said. “This is the first time that we’ve had a very frank, open and honest dialogue about race at a council meeting.” 

Newton suggested a town hall meeting to discuss racial issues and asked Bryant if he’d be willing to participate. 

“I’d have to think about that,” Bryant said. 

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Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl later on Tuesday evening issued a statement condemning Bryant but stopping short of calling for his resignation. 

“The Alabama Republican Party is deeply troubled by the racially charged outburst and disrespect shown by Councilman Tommy Bryant. Such language is completely unacceptable in any setting, and even more concerning coming from an elected official,” Wahl said. “We are proud to have Mayor Wayman Newton as a member of the Jefferson County Republican Party and deeply appreciate his commitment to serving his constituents honorably, even in the face of adversity.”

The conflict in Tarrant took a turn when Newton turned himself in at the Jefferson County Jail in June on an assault charge filed by the former Tarrant police chief Dennis Reno, who is white, and who accused Newtown of slamming Newton’s office door on Reno on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, injuring his shoulder. 

Reno retired on Jan.1, according to AL.com, which also reported that Newton said during a press conference following the retirement that Reno “was unwilling to stop the discriminatory practice of not hiring African American officers, which under my administration is unacceptable.”

Newtown later posted security camera footage to Facebook, posted by Tarran’s official city Facebook page which stated the video was of the incident Reno alleged. The video showed Reno calmly walking out of Newton’s office and closing the door himself. 

Bryant in an interview with The Daily Beast said his opposition to Newton had nothing to do with race but was because he said Newton was trampling on the established ways of doing things. 

“He’s a dictatorial person. Reminds me of Adolph Hitler,” Bryant told The Daily Beast, adding that Newton once challenged Bryant to a fight. Newton told the news outlet he’d never challenged Bryant to a fight. 

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Newton said he’d only used “foul language” with Bryant once in private after he said Bryant called him “boy.” 

“If you know anything about the history of the South and race relations, to have some 75-year-old man calling a 40-year-old Black man a boy is very insulting,” Newton told The Daily Beast. 

Bryant told the news outlet that he’d called Newton a “little boy” while trying to instigate him. 

“I was trying to piss him off to see if he’d come after me,” Bryant told The Daily Beast.

Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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