Photo of the crowd at last night's meeting by Qortni Medovichova, via Facebook.
A long-awaited town board meeting was packed to the gills last night with protesters angry about Sidney's recent star turn in a national scandal over a small Muslim graveyard that belongs to a local Sufi center, Osmanlı Nakş-ı'bendi Hakkani Dergahı. Despite a last-minute letter to the Sufi Center's lawyers (see below) stating that "no action would be taken" to move or alter the graves, the crowd turned out in force to demand an apology for the scandal. But, according to various news outlets and the Impeach Bob McCarthy Facebook page, none was forthcoming.
Instead, according to WBNG 12, the board took its time going through every item on its agenda while protesters fumed. Then, reaching the topic at last, McCarthy stated that there would be no apology and hustled the meeting to a close.
The Daily Star reports this morning that the meeting began with a statement from the town clerk urging McCarthy to "improve his people skills." It also reports that McCarthy not only refused to apologize during the meeting, but "at one point tried to deny his comments."
When the question was pursued, he said, "I don't know if I did that. If I did, whatever."
From Patrick McElligot:
I think one of McCarthy's most repulsive outbursts was when he raised his voice to our good friend from Masonville, saying, "You don't pay taxes here!" He may lack the intellectual capacity to grasp that kids from Masonville attend Sidney schools, and parents shop at Sidney's stores. A significant problem with McCarthy & Co.'s actions are that they are giving Sidney a bad name. No community can afford to have its reputation destroyed by a McCarthyite. Local merchants know this. We need to get more of them involved, quietly if necessary, in pressuring him to resign.
From Mark Boyce:
It was quite an experience witnessing this meeting tonight. I am shocked at how ill prepared the board was to deal with the situation and to communicate effectively. I had to laugh when the statement was read from the table that they are aware Bob needs to work on his public speaking skills. Give me a break. At age 70 he has had ample time to learn how to think and speak. The dog is too old for new tricks.
YouTube user vlakieste captured video of Meryem Brawley, one of the owners of the land on which the cemetery is located speaking at the meeting. She asked why no one from the town approached her to talk about the cemetery's legal issues:
Below, a copy of the letter sent by the town of Sidney to Tom Schimmerling, the lawyer for the Sufi group.
*UPDATE, 11:22pm: A poster on Democratic Underground, who signs himself "H20Man," has a very thorough (and moving) recap of the meeting. An excerpt:
...[A] young man who is the brother of one of the people buried in the tiny cemetery began to speak about the pain of not only losing a family member, but of having the Town Supervisor threaten to “excavate” his grave. Before he could finish, the Town Board opted to close the meeting, cutting off what many of us considered the most important messages in this conflict.