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City Council stands against Roanoke mayor and halt on Roanoke relocation of Syrian refugees

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Members of City Council spoke against Mayor David Bowers' request to temporarily ban Syrian refugees from the Roanoke Valley.

The comments from Councilman Sherman Lea and others came later the same day Bowers issued a statement saying, in part, "Roanoke is a welcoming city and America is the melting pot of the world, and right and successful we have been at both. However, since the recent terrorist bombing of the Russian airline, the attacks in Paris and now with the murderous threats to our nation's capital, I am convinced that it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia."

During a city council meeting Wednesday, members of council shared their thoughts on the mayor's announcement.

Councilman Sherman Lea said, "we want all of our citizens to feel safe."

But the consensus seemed to be against Bowers' proposed halt on refugees entering the area.

Councilman and 2016 candidate for mayor, David Trinkle, had harsh words for Mayor Bowers, saying, "when you hear his statement, think David bowers, not Roanoke."

Councilwoman Anita Price added, "we are trying to neutralize the damage from David this morning," and added Bowers' comments effect people in and outside of the Roanoke Valley.

"...We are not the type of people to build up a wall and keep people out...I'm still wondering why in the world you, would he would make that statement?" ~Councliwoman Anita Price

Trinkle said Bowers' comments were "selfish" and "narcissistic" and the "real Roanoke" was against the halt. Trinkle and Lea both shared the feeling Bowers is motivated by a need for attention.

"David does not represent Roanoke, the city council represents Roanoke, Citizens represent the city of Roanoke" ~Councilman David Trinkle

Trinkle said during the news conference he had spoken with Delegate Sam Rasoul, who was in agreement with council. Del. Rasoul later issued a statement saying,

"As the son of immigrants who are proud to call Roanoke home, I was shocked to see the Mayor's justification of his call to disallow Syrian refugees to Roanoke. The Japanese internment camps of World War II symbolize a dark time and low point in U.S. history. We should learn a lesson from such events rather than repeat them.

"The city of Roanoke is home to a rich tapestry of backgrounds and that is one of many reasons it's a great place to live. We must not allow ourselves to be ruled by fear and distrust of our fellow man. Refugees go through an extremely stringent screening process that often takes nearly two years. It is my hope that Roanoke will continue to be the welcoming and compassionate place that so many are happy to call home."

Meanwhile, Roanoke was trending in the United States on Twitter for more than two hours Wednesday, as celebrities spread the word of Bowers' comments. Famed for his roles in Star Trek as an activist for civil rights, George Takei posted the mayor's statement on his Facebook page, followed by more than 9 million people.

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Earlier today, the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, Mr. David A. Bowers, in the attached letter, joined several state...

Posted by George Takei on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Takei was born in California to an American and a Japanese immigrant. During World War II, his family was forced into relocation and incarceration as fear of Japanese immigrants rose after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

Bowers said after the recent attacks in Paris, terrorist bombing to the Russian airline and threats made to our capitol - it would be unwise to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees.

For now, Bowers is suggesting all government and non-government agencies to suspend and delay any further Syrian refugee assistance until the hostilities end.

Council members said several times during their statements, Mayor Bowers' comments cast Roanoke in a bad light. They each had their own way to express the community, but all seemed to agree Roanoke was an open, inviting, welcoming community.

He released a statement to media that reads: 

Roanoke is a welcoming city and America is the melting pot of the world, and right and successful we have been at both. 

However, since the recent terrorist bombing of the Russian airline, the attacks in Paris and now with the murderous threats to our nation's capital, I am convinced that it is presently imprudent to assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to our part of Virginia. 

Thus, today, I'm requesting that all Roanoke Valley government and non government agencies suspend and delay any further Syrian refugee assistance until these serious hostilities and atrocities end, or at the very least until regarded as under control by U.S. authorities, and normalcy is restored. 

I'm reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appeals that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then. 

I further want to assure our citizens that Roanoke's law enforcement and public safety agencies are and will be prepared to the best of their ability to assure our citizens that everything is and will be done to protect Roanokers from harm and danger from this present scourge upon the earth. 

In this regard, at least for awhile into the future, it seems to me to be better safe than sorry.

Sincerely, 

David A.Bowers

Mayor