White Alabama city leader caught using racial slur says he won’t quit, may run for higher office

Published 10:40 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A white city leader captured on video using a racial slur toward Black people during a council meeting said he won’t apologize, and might run for mayor. Others are calling for his resignation.

Tarrant City Council member Tommy Bryant told news outlets his use of the word Monday night reflected something the city’s Black mayor, Wayman Newton, had said during an earlier private meeting.

Standing up from his council seat during a public session, Bryant used the slur to refer to a Black female council member, Veronica Freeman. Some in the audience gasped at his use of the slur, which was broadcast on Facebook Live, and Freeman left crying, but Bryant was unapologetic.

“I did what needed to be done. It needed to be brought to light what kind of a person the mayor is,” Bryant told WVTM-TV.

The mayor said the video speaks for itself and, in an interview with al.com, denied using the same slur Bryant uttered during the meeting.

Asked whether he is a racist, Bryant demurred.

“It’s according to what your definition of the word racist is. What a lot of the public’s definition is, I might be a racist. But according to what the true definition of a racist is, absolutely not,” he told the station.

Bryant did not respond to an email sent to the city by The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking additional comment.

The Alabama NAACP called for Bryant’s resignation, saying he had “disgraced himself and has stained the position he holds.”

While city elections are nonpartisan in Alabama, the state Democratic Party issued a statement calling for Bryant’s resignation, and the Alabama GOP noted that Newton is a Republican and said Bryant’s remark was “completely unacceptable.”

Tarrant, which adjoins Birmingham, has a population of about 6,100 and is about 53% Black, Census statistics show.