Kate Thurston and Bob Hanson, Connersville News Examiner

Mike Bishop resigned from Connersville City Council on after a public outcry over a post on his Facebook page. His resignation came Saturday morning, hours before an afternoon rally to ask for his resignation.

Bishop, 73, and in his fifth year as a council member, denied having posted racially offensive material on his Facebook page. He said someone must have hacked his account and posted the image.

The Fayette County Republican Party has 30 days to select a replacement for Bishop on City Council. Mayor Chad Frank will appoint his replacement on the Board of Public Works and Safety, where he had served since 2012.

Terri Benjamin shared a screenshot of the Facebook post on Friday, calling for Bishop’s resignation.

It includes two pictures. One shows a group of monkeys on top of and surrounding a police car. The second shows a group of African-American men on a police car, apparently an image from one of the protests that occurred after George Floyd was killed by a police officer kneeling on his neck during an arrest in Minneapolis. The caption reads, “Monkey see, monkey do.”

At Saturday’s rally, Benjamin said, “What he posted might have just made a mistake, but his position as an at-large councilman representing the entire community, including African-Americans, holds him to a standard the post violated.”

The rally was quickly planned on Friday for Saturday at the Fayette County Courthouse. Rain moved the meeting inside to Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Many came to speak against Bishop and show support for Connersville’s Black community, which makes up 3 percent of the population, according to speakers at the meeting.

Mount Zion’s pastor, DeAundre Williams, said, “We have to start having uncomfortable conversations, it is time. Racism wasn’t birthed overnight, so to kill it isn’t going to happen overnight.”

He called for continuing efforts to fight racism. “There are sequences of conversations that need to take place. The real reality is, when you start eating meat you can’t eat it all at once. You have to chop it up in pieces to digest it. I want to help us chop this up and digest it.”

Krista Gibson is spearheading a group called Striving for a Change that is working with the city on diversity issues. The group is made up of several people of different backgrounds. She is scheduled to report on the committee’s work at next Monday’s City Council meeting.

Jeannine Lee Lake, the Democratic candidate for Congress, came to the rally from Muncie. She said once she found out about the situation, she was very upset.

“I have a lot of friends in Connersville and my phone started blowing up Friday around 2 p.m. I was told the councilman was a Christian and it really upset me. I couldn’t believe it, I wondered what he was trying to say about Black people. I was very disheartened. He might not say he is racist, but I think he is in denial.”

She said that when a person insults, degrades or demeans people based on the color of skin, that is racist behavior.

“If Mike Bishop thinks he is a man of God, he needs to search scripture about we are all created in the image of God, no one is better than another,” she said. “I hope we can teach him some things he may not understand.”

Lake was told Saturday that Bishop resigned.

“He had to go. I am glad he resigned,” she said.

Comments by Council member Clarence Werner were brought up during the rally. He told Richmond’s newspaper, the Palladium-Item, there wasn’t a race problem in Connersville.

In a comment to the News-Examiner, he defended Bishop, saying, “Mike would not have done that,” and adding, “Connersville does not have a race problem that I know of.”

Williams said, “We will challenge the person (Werner) who made the other statement and find out how he feels. I don’t mind having a difficult conversation. We are not going to settle, we are tired of it. We need to bring a change to Connersville. I am not wishing bad on anyone, as I said, though it is imperative that we move to position where we have uncomfortable conversations.”

Fayette County Democrat Chairman Tim Rose had praise for Mayor Frank’s efforts to resolve the issue with Bishop. He also said Frank, a Republican, has been making some changes that are heading the city in the right direction.

Williams reminded those attending that the rally was not meant to bash Bishop and his family.

“I want to be extremely clear, our purpose here today by no means was to belittle Mike, or cast him out. When you are called out for your wrong doings, then you are subject at a higher standard for correcting what you do. We did not come here to bash Mike,” Williams said. “I challenge you to pray for him and his family, we don’t want anyone threatening him because that isn’t necessary.”

Frank said the events had been difficult for him.

“I am sick to my stomach. Nothing has been easy about this,” Frank said. “Mike asked for my opinion on what he should do. He said he didn’t want to bring any trouble for his family and thought this was the best decision.”

Monday, Frank said, “It was very gracious of Mike to resign, knowing his love for and desire to serve the city of Connersville. I would like to thank Mike for his several years of service to our community.”

Fayette County Republican Chair Vivian Himelick said the party will meet for a caucus to select Bishops’ replacement at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 11, in Republican headquarters, 604 Central Avenue.

“We have several who have shown interest in the position,” Himelick said. Bishop, she said, has done a lot for the community. “... It is too bad, he was a good guy.”

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