Controversy surrounds Black Lives Matter Zoom mural background in Pinellas County

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – When Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters addressed fellow county commissioners at their Zoom meeting Tuesday morning, she brought up an unusual subject: the commissioners’ backgrounds during the meeting. Some have office backgrounds, others have bookcases and others have the county seal.

Commissioner Kenneth Welch, the only commissioner of color on the board, sits in front of a Black Lives Matter mural. It’s the mural artists recently painted in front of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg.

Commissioner Peters, addressing the commission, “We were told if we didn’t want an office background to use a county commission background,” said Peters, suggesting that rules for what should and should not be displayed during meetings should be outlined.

Commissioner Welch told Eight on Your Side, he knew Peters had brought the issue to staff members prior to the meeting and let her know about it.

“I know you had a problem with my Black Lives Matter that you took to staff,” Welch said to Peters. “It’s not art, it’s an actual photo of the mural on 9th Avenue in front of the Carter Woodson Museum.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman chimed in on Twitter over the matter, blasting Peters.

“It is just shameful that Commissioner Peters has an issue with a few letters of our BLM street mural being used as Commissioner Welch’s background,” Kriseman tweeted. “Her judgment is way off and her politics are clearly out of step with who are in Pinellas and St. Pete. Really unbelievable.”

Eight On Your Side requested an interview with the Mayor but he was unavailable.

Peters issued a statement following Mayor Kriseman’s tweet:

“I find it unfortunate that Mayor Kriseman took this opportunity to play politics. My intention is to ensure no signs (political or not) are used for display during any government meeting,” Peters wrote. “This is a policy that was in place in both the Florida House and Senate. Each commissioner represents all or a large amount of the Pinellas County residents and they deserve professionalism from their county commissioners. If there is not a policy, we have now opened the door for any messaging to take place during any or every meeting in the future.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters

Commissioner Welch does not plan to take the mural down and calls the issue a distraction. He believes he and his colleagues should be more focussed on the matters that really affect the county.

“Including the epidemic with COVID, had the most cases of any week last week, we’re concerned about hospital capacity,” said Commissioner Welch. “We’re concerned about getting our CARES act money to our businesses and individuals.”

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