If anyone still has to be convinced of the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement across the nation and right here in the Twin Counties, the seriousness of what happened last week at a virtual but public reopening meeting of the Catskill Central School District should drive the point home.

While a woman tried to address a question about the reopening plans to Catskill Superintendent Ronel Cook, the voice of a man, as yet unidentified, interrupted the meeting and ignited a firestorm by shouting racial slurs at Cook, and peppering other listeners with profanity and more slurs.

We won’t use this space to dignify an invisible man’s toxic words with a response. But we will applaud Cook, who is Black and a a vocal champion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the Catskill community, for remaining calm and showing extraordinary dignity and courage in the face of reprehensible insults.

After regaining control of the meeting, Cook apologized to the Zoom audience and adjourned what was to have been an important meeting about the school district’s immediate future.

The Catskill Police Department is leading the investigation into what happened at the meeting and is working with the New York State Police Computer Crimes Unit, Greene County Sheriff’s Office and Greene County District Attorney’s Office. Police are working to trace the caller and criminal charges are pending.

The racism that gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement could not be more apparent. And it was not a story happening somewhere else and reported on the TV news or published in the New York Times. This unspeakable episode took place right here in our own community, ironically in a village that recently prohibited Black Lives Matter banners and murals.

The ugliness on display at that meeting in Catskill last week should make all of us ashamed to admit we live there.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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