NAACP leaders ask senator who wore controversial mask to resign

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Leaders of West Michigan chapters of the NAACP are calling for the resignation of a southeast Michigan senator who wore a mask with a design that resembled the Confederate battle flag.

State Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, came under fire after wearing the mask on the Senate floor in late April. After initially denying the mask depicted the confederate flag, he later apologized for wearing it.

Leaders of West Michigan chapters of the NAACP say the apology isn’t enough. Presidents of NAACP branches representing Grand Rapids, Lake and Newaygo counties, Battle Creek, metropolitan Kalamazoo, Muskegon County and Albion released a joint statement (PDF) on the matter.

“We cannot allow those types of behaviors to go unchecked. And so an apology is just not enough,” Cle Jackson, president of the NAACP chapter in Grand Rapids, told News 8 Tuesday.

Jackson and the other presidents also denounced some of the behavior displayed during protests at the Michigan Capitol over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. They specifically addressed the display of symbols including swastikas and the Confederate flag, as well as those carrying long guns.

“They’re simply dog whistles to a base that, of course, will use this as a social political ploy,” Jackson said. “I thought it was absolutely disgusting.”

Jackson said the leaders felt it important to address concerns that have emerged during a pandemic that is having a significant impact on communities of color. According to figures from the state, COVID-19 deaths have disproportionately impacted black people. The chapter presidents lauded Whitmer’s efforts.

“She has put first the lives and safety of all Michiganders versus looking at this purely from an economics vantage point,” Jackson said. “In times like these, we should come together to support and not divide.”

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