Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has called for a member of the city’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board to resign over comments he made about a man who killed five Dallas police officers in 2016.
Ja Keen Fox, a 31-year-old program officer for a local foundation who has served on the advisory board since 2017, tweeted last week: “Rest in Power Micah X Johnson.”
On July 7, 2016, Johnson, a 25-year-old black Army veteran, killed five officers in a sniper attack that he portrayed as payback for the high-profile fatal police shootings of two black men in other parts of the country that summer. Johnson was killed hours after the attack during a standoff by a bomb delivered by a police robot.
Fox, who is black, also tweeted that Johnson “valued his life and the life of Black people enough not to wait around to be killed unjustly ... .”
Stothert called for his resignation in a statement issued Thursday.
“Mr. Fox has been an active and productive member of the board, but his comment supporting the killer of five police officers ... in Dallas, Texas in 2016 is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” she said.
Fox said Thursday that he had no plans to resign.
“I want to be as clear as possible. There will be no apology from me,” he wrote in an email to local news media outlets. “I won’t step down unless asked to do so by my fellow board members or forced to do so by the Mayor’s office. If Mayor Stothert is ‘asking’ me to resign, the answer is a resounding no.”
Fox is the lead organizer of the Justice for James movement, which is calling for charges to be filed against the white bar owner who fatally shot James Scurlock, a black man, during protests in downtown Omaha on May 30.
In a phone call with The World-Herald, Fox said he didn’t feel the need to condone or condemn Johnson’s actions. Rather, he said, people should be asking “why a black man would feel the need to take up arms against those who have sworn to serve and protect every citizen.”
Fox compared his statements on Johnson to white Americans’ respect for the country’s Founding Fathers.
“I pay tribute to Micah X with the same fervor YT (white) Americans have paid tribute to the founding fathers of this country,” he wrote in the email. “If it’s appropriate to pay tribute to a country that, during its formation, killed millions upon millions of Indigenous, Black and Brown peoples, then surely I can pay tribute to Micah X.”
In her statement, Stothert said members of city advisory boards are appointed to improve the quality of life for everyone in Omaha.
“Members are of course entitled to their own opinions, but paying tribute to the killer of police officers is an opinion that has no value to the good work and outcomes of our boards,” she said.
“Our Omaha police officers put themselves in harm’s way every time they come to work,” she continued. “Their jobs give them the opportunity to change lives and save lives. They understand and accept the risks and rewards of police work. My thanks to every officer for their dedication to our city and the citizens they serve.”
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Fox criticized Stothert for releasing a statement calling for his resignation to the press before speaking with him. He said she failed to use her power to protect recent protesters from prosecution or to hold Omaha police officers accountable for inflicting “violence” on protesters.
“She wasn’t courageous enough to stand up for her constituents,” he said. “Unless those constituents wear a gun and badge, of course. The bias is not new or unexpected, but just made so much more obvious because of this time of social unrest.”
The LGBTQ+ board, which Stothert created by executive order in 2017, provides advice and input to the city on issues affecting those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Stothert appoints its members, though the board can make recommendations.
Fox said he and other members were crafting a response to Stothert. It had not been released as of Thursday.
Fox and the ACLU of Nebraska had been working together to advocate for peaceful protesters who had been arrested on minor charges, like curfew violations, failure to disperse or unlawful assembly. He had organized a meeting two weeks ago with City Prosecutor Matt Kuhse to talk about the issue. ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad also attended.
In a statement Thursday, the ACLU did not directly address its future working relationship with Fox.
“As a matter of policy the ACLU supports free expression and does not condone violence,” spokesman Sam Petto said. “We will continue to work with all stakeholders to advance racial justice and civil liberties in Nebraska.”
World-Herald staff writer Alia Conley contributed to this report, which includes material from the Associated Press.
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