OCALA, Fla. — Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to address criticism he received after proclaiming April 26 Confederate Memorial Day in the city during an Ocala City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
"I did this proclamation last night," Guinn said. "Marion County did one on (March 19). I did one in 2014. I did one in 2013. I did one in 2012. And Mayor (Gerald) Ergle did one in 2005, and not one word of a problem."
Council President Mary Sue Rich said after Tuesday's meeting that the proclamation made her stomach turn.
"When people say you (are) a member of the Klu Klux Klan, I'm beginning to believe them," she said. "I don't think you deserve to be the mayor of Ocala. I hope somebody runs against you, because you keep coming up with more and more negative stuff."
Guinn denied those rumors Wednesday.
"For anybody to say that I'm a racist or a member of the KKK -- that's the most ridiculous thing that I've heard," he said. "I am not -- repeat not -- in the KKK. I never have been. I never will be. And I despise and hate everything that organization stands for."
Rich said Wednesday that the proclamation was offensive.
Watch the mayor's news conference below:
"I don't think we need to have a special day in 2019 declaring Confederate day in the city of Ocala," she said. "I just want him to look at things that he is doing and saying that refer to African-Americans a little closer."
Rich said Guinn declined a request by the International Cities of Peace to proclaim Ocala a City of Peace, so he should not have issued one memorializing Confederate soldiers.
Guinn said he took issue with the person who requested the proclamation, not the virtue of peace.
"I was simply honoring the request of these folks to recognize and memorialize veterans who had died (who) were Confederate soldiers," he said.
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