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Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi to critics: ‘I’m tired of hearing this’

September 8, 2018
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Protesters gather in front of the Arnold Social and Training Center before the Arnold City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, to call for Mayor Karen Peconi's resignation.

Embattled Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi said she understands why people are still upset over comments she made on her personal Facebook page that critics say were racist and insensitive, but she still has no plans to resign.

“I have apologized,” Peconi said Tuesday, adding that she believes she is an effective leader and has a strong support base. “I don’t know what else I can say. It was a heartfelt apology, and I think that we need to work together to heal this community, and people need to see that I do care for my community and that we’re trying to do things to make this community better.”

Public pressure has been mounting for Peconi to step down since she made social media posts disparaging people who took to the streets to protest after the June 19 fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose in East Pittsburgh.

A video the mayor shared on her Facebook page portrayed water cannons being used to disperse protesters elsewhere. Some were violently knocked to the ground.

“We need one of these for tomorrow,” Peconi wrote in a comment beneath the video.

Later, she wrote, “bring the hoses” and complained of protesters, “None of them work. That’s how they can do this at 7 a.m. ... Very sad.”

Despite the fact that two months have passed, some people remain adamant that Peconi should give up her seat.

Aaron Moore is a community activist for Concerned People of the Community Arnold & New Kensington (CAN), a community group dedicated to social justice, political discourse and community action.

Moore was among a group of more than a dozen people who protested before Tuesday’s meeting. Moore said he and his group will continue to let Peconi know that she’s not wanted or needed in Arnold.

“We just needed to come back and show her that we’re not done,” he said. “They expect us to walk away and go away and they’ll wait us out. But we’ll be here next month, also.”

The majority of the council meeting was on city business as usual, but there were moments where attendees brought up Peconi’s comments.

Peconi said she has already apologized for what she posted and she shouldn’t have done it. She read aloud from a written apology during the city’s July council meeting.

“I’m tired of hearing this,” Peconi said Tuesday. “I am not racist.”

George Allen III and Ashely Palmer, creators of The Partners in Justice group, which formed in the aftermath of the Rose shooting, were also in attendance. The two have several thousand Facebook followers among their various profiles and pages.

Palmer said she came to the meeting because she doesn’t think the citizens would have known what was really going on without her and Allen.

She asked why Peconi apologized for her comments if she didn’t think she did anything wrong.

“Because everyone expected me to,” Peconi said. The mayor later clarified that statement by saying she apologized so that the city could heal.

Palmer and Allen said they will continue to come to every council meeting until Peconi is gone.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Allen said. “She made a racist statement. In the position that she’s in, she has to go.”

“She’s got problems; she’s got to go,” Palmer said. “I want to know why she thinks that she’s fit to be in office.”

Council members also have been vocal in their stance that Peconi should resign, and in July voted 4-0 to send a letter to the state Senate asking them to remove Peconi from office. Peconi abstained.

Solicitor Dave Regoli said he wrote and sent the letter as instructed, but city officials have not heard back from the Senate.

Peconi’s attorney Sean Logue sent a letter to state Senate leaders advising them not to try to remove Peconi on Constitutional and other grounds.

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