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Luray mayor apologizes for Facebook post at town council meeting

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 6:27 AM EDT
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Luray, Va. (WHSV) - Dozens of residents packed Luray Town Council Chambers Monday night, as Mayor Barry Presgraves apologized after making a racially insensitive Facebook post last week.

Monday’s town council meeting started with an apology by the mayor who said in part:

“I’m making a deep apology to all people of color and women for passing off deep meaning and warn out racial stereotypes as humor that isn’t funny. I know fully understand how hard and hurtful it is and I can and will do better and we can all do better. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry and humbly ask for your forgiveness and your grace,” Presgraves said.

Close to 50 people waited outside the town hall for most of the evening to tell the mayor how they felt after he made the post that some say, left a scar on the community.

Due to social distancing guidelines, only 23 people were allowed into the council chambers at a time. Those waiting outside were allowed to come in during the public commenting period to express themselves.

Barbara Veney, a Luray resident, stood at the podium in front of the town council said in order for the community to heal Presgraves needs to resign.

“In order for us to move on look around the room right now and it’s because of their race I’m asking you today, Mr. Mayor that you step down in love because I love you and do the right thing,” Veney said.

Others said they did not believe what the mayor had posted was racist, and the conflict over the past week was nothing but a political battle.

“We need to move forward, I do not believe what Mr. Presgraves said was racist at all,” Dean Peterson, a Page County resident, said, “There is nothing in his background that should suggest that to me, this is nothing but manufactured outrage by councilwomen Leah Pence to get a political advantage.”

Audre King, a community leader in Luray, spoke with Presgraves about his actions last week and said he knows what Presgraves posted was racist but that the town needs to look at who they elect to represent the people.

“Knowing the relationship I have with him, this is not a racist man, nor does he have a racist heart, nor did he intend for his comment to be racist,” King said. “Although given the context they very much were.”

The town council later went into closed session to discuss a statement going forward regarding social media and how the town can heal.

Presgraves has said in the past that he will not resign and will finish his last three months of his term.

In order for Presgraves to be removed from office, he must resign or a petition to remove him must be created by citizens of the town. The town council has no power in removing elected officials.

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