The national spotlight placed on the debate over kneeling during the national anthem was brought Monday night to the Ann Arbor City Council, as four council members knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance.
Council members Jason Frenzel, Sumi Kailasapathy, Chip Smith and Chuck Warpehoski all knelt in silent protest during the Pledge of Allegiance, which is traditionally said prior to every City Council meeting.
Warpehoski announced his intention to kneel during the pledge prior to the council meeting in a post on his website. In that post, he compared kneeling during the pledge to kneeling during a football game for an injured player.
“I can’t speak to what is in each person’s heart, but for me to ‘take a knee’ is an act of attention, of concern, and of respect. And it is in that spirit that I take a knee at tonight’s City Council meeting,” Warpehoski wrote.
In the portion of the council meeting designated for announcements from the council members, Kailasapathy explained why she joined Warpehoski in kneeling.
“For me democracy is more than just symbolic, it’s actually holding up democratic practices,” Kailasapathy said. “I would want others to judge my patriotism by my actions when I uphold these values.”
Following the protests, the council members returned to their scheduled business.
The most pressing issue was the vote on the approval of more funds for the third year of Ann Arbor’s controversial deer-culling efforts. The resolution on the table would approve an additional $110,000 to completely fund the estimated 2018 budget of $370,000 to be spent on the deer cull.
The program, which began in 2015, was designed to help deal with the overpopulation of deer in the Ann Arbor area. Eight Ann Arbor residents spoke in the public commentary about the deer cull. University of Michigan professor Christopher Dick spoke in support of the cull, saying it was necessary for the health of the deer and the forests they lived in.
“Culling the herd can actually help the dear by reducing the spread of deer diseases that may be exacerbated by overabundance,” Dick said.
Other speakers, such as Ann Arbor resident Robert McGee, attempted to rebut the point that deer posed any extraordinary threat to the wildlife and forests of Ann Arbor, or to its citizens.
Ann Arbor resident Sally Daniels went a step further and criticized the council for its past and current support of the deer cull.
“Council members have based their vote on their own limited experiences rather than the wishes of their constituents,” Daniels said. “A deer ran on top of council member Kailasapathy’s car. Will killing 558 more deer make her feel better?”
She concluded her remarks by saying, “everyone who votes for an increase in the cull tonight deserves to be voted off of City Council.”
In a vote of 10-1, the council voted in favor of the additional funds needed for the 2018 deer cull, with Mayor Christopher Taylor being the sole dissenting voice.
The council members also took time to vote on a resolution to decline pay increases in their salaries. The council rejected this resolution, accepting the pay increase. The council also declared the month of October Co-op Month in the city of Ann Arbor in honor of the work local co-ops do for the community.