Tuesday, January 24, 2017 by Cate Malek

Human Rights Commission condemns Trump

Austin’s Human Rights Commission is pushing City Council to take the bold move of condemning the president of the United States and banning official use of his company’s products and services.

At its meeting on Monday, the commission voted 8-2 to condemn actions taken by both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Commissioners Timothy Miller and Tucker Royall opposed the decision, and Paula Buls was absent.

“People talk about keeping Austin weird. I think our idea is to keep Austin fair, to keep Austin just, to keep Austin discrimination-free,” said Commissioner Joe Miguez, who co-sponsored the recommendation. “I didn’t really want to wait around for anybody else to do it. I thought we could be the ones who set the trend.”

The recommendation details a list of actions the commission wants to condemn, including anything that encourages discrimination against or harassment of individuals based on their race, gender, national origin or religion. It specifically mentions Trump engaging in discriminatory housing practices that targeted black renters, verbally insulting Mexican immigrants and boasting of unwelcome kissing of women and grabbing their genitalia without their consent, among many other actions.

The commissioners also condemned Pence for claiming that marriage equality would bring about societal collapse, and that working mothers stunted their children’s development.

In response to those actions and positions, the commissioners recommended that “the Austin City Council boycott all Trump-branded products and services, including … hotels, resorts and other similar properties in the course of their official city business.”

Miguez and Commissioner Garry Brown first introduced the proposal to condemn Trump in November and have been honing the language over the last few months. They said they have not spoken with Council members about their support for the action but plan to reach out to them this week.

Both commissioners said they were inspired by personal events to write the recommendation. Miguez was motivated by a family friend, a young Muslim lawyer, who said she no longer felt safe living in the country. And Brown said his concern was an increase in harassment against all types of minorities.

“(Trump) has given voice to a segment of the population out there that I find very dangerous,” he said.

As far as either commissioner knows, Austin is the first to propose such an action, although several cities condemned Trump’s actions before he was inaugurated. It will likely be a controversial recommendation, and after the meeting, one member of the public angrily told the commissioners that being displaced from a job by immigrants was also a violation of human rights. But both Brown and Miguez said they hope to push the recommendation through at a city level to make a strong symbolic statement to Trump.

“As much as we think of Austin as being a leader, we’re actually doing that now, and it’s really gratifying,” Brown said.

Photo by Gage Skidmore made available through a Creative Commons license.

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Austin Human Rights Commission: an advisory committee to members of the Austin City Council. It's purview includes "all matters involving racial, religious or ethnic discrimination."

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