A controversy over several tweets Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy wrote from 2009 to 2014 has led him to resign from his seat on the Virginia Board of Education.
“Today, I informed Gov. [Terry] McAuliffe that I have decided to resign from my appointment to the Virginia State Board of Education,” Bellamy said in a statement Wednesday. “I would like to redirect my attention and focus to my family, the children and young people whom I serve, and to the city of Charlottesville.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, had called on Bellamy to “resign immediately” from his position on the education board that McAuliffe appointed him to last spring. Landes is the chairman of the education committee in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“Mr. Bellamy’s racist, sexist and outrageous tweets are repugnant. It is especially disturbing to see these comments come from an individual who serves on Virginia’s Board of Education,” Landes said. “The type of language used by Mr. Bellamy is unacceptable, and certainly disqualifies him from serving on the Board of Education.
“Our children and the Board of Education deserve better than this.”
After author and blogger Jason Kessler last week unearthed a number of tweets showing Bellamy disparaging white men and women, other tweets by Bellamy showing him taking a flippant attitude toward women school teachers and administrators, as well as a graphic description of sexual assault, were shared by various news sources, social media accounts and blogs.
On Tuesday, the Albemarle County School Board announced that Bellamy had agreed to go on administrative leave pending the outcome of a School Board investigation of the posts that were attributed to his Twitter account.
A county school system spokesman said Wednesday that Bellamy is being paid during the leave.
“This is consistent with the school division’s practice whenever an employee is the subject of an ongoing investigation,” Phil Giaramita said. “Due process is the key here — only when an investigation has been completed and all facts are known and confirmed is a final decision made by the School Board about an individual employee’s status.”
Bellamy moved to the Charlottesville area in 2009 to work at the National Ground Intelligence Center. According to his LinkedIn account, he started working for the Albemarle school system in August 2010.
After becoming involved in community activism and establishing a youth mentoring program known as Helping Young People Evolve in 2011, he entered city politics shortly after.
In 2013, he narrowly missed being nominated as a Democratic candidate for the City Council, losing to first-term Councilor Bob Fenwick by just five votes — Fenwick was second to Councilor Kristin Szakos in that election.
Bellamy made a second run for the council last year. He was the top vote-getter in the 2015 election, coming in ahead of incumbent Kathy Galvin and newcomer Mike Signer.
With the exception of Signer, Charlottesville’s mayor, the other three councilors have made statements signaling their desire to forgive Bellamy for his past indiscretions on social media.
Kessler, the blogger who revealed the tweets last week in an apparent attempt to undermine Bellamy because of his “Afrocentric” and “anti-white” ideologies, is circulating a petition on StandUnited.org to have Bellamy removed from the council.
Earlier in the week, the petition had been listed under Michelle Jones but was later changed.
Over the phone Wednesday, Kessler said there had been some people questioning the validity of his petition and whether the growing number of signatures was legitimate. He said he was “shy” about putting his name out there, but later chose to attach his real name to the petition so that he could “promote it more publicly.”
Angela Morabito, senior campaign organizer for StandUnited, said in an email that Kessler initially had decided to use a different identity on the website.
“… I am verifying that Jason Kessler is a real site user and that his petition, and the signatures it has garnered, are legitimate,” she said.
As of Wednesday night, the petition had acquired more than 500 signatures.
On Wednesday, Showing Up For Racial Justice Charlottesville, an affiliate of a national organization of “white people for racial justice,” issued a statement indirectly alleging that Kessler has been using a “well-documented and formulaic media strategy” of the so-called “alt-right,” an offshoot of conservatism that mixes white nationalism and populism.
In February, Kessler wrote in a blog post that “there will come a time when white people understand that they also need to stick together as a political force.”
“We’re going to be a minority soon and we’re already treated like one. Don’t think we aren’t going to be oppressed more and more if we can’t stand up for ourselves,” he wrote. “Cultures, tribes and civilizations are meant to clash just as we always have in the past, just like it is with nearly every other beast in the animal kingdom.”
The statement from Showing Up For Racial Justice does not name Kessler but alludes to the recent revelation of Bellamy’s old tweets as an example of a “witch hunt” to “delegitimize black public officials.”
“In an environment of enduring, and now emboldened and explicit, white supremacy, it is more important than ever to be decisive and bold in our solidarity,” the statement says. “We will not stand for these acts of targeted racism in the Charlottesville community.”
Signer also alluded to Kessler, though indirectly, in a statement Wednesday.
“In a time when we so urgently need unity, tolerance and love, these communications, as well as the toxic website that revealed them, have done real harm to our community,” Signer said.
“I believe Mr. Bellamy must seriously consider how and whether, in his present role, he can best serve the common good of Charlottesville,” he said.