NB Politicus

Republican Candidate For 26th District Stirred Social Media Controversy in 2015

“Racially Divisive” Posts Sunk Ceglarz’ Council Candidacy In The ’15 Municipal

By John McNamara

The New Britain Republican Town Committee’s (NBRTC) slate of legislative candidates for the November 3rd Election includes a nominee who stirred controversy in 2015 that forced his withdrawal from the Councillor-At-Large race that year.

Piotr (Peter) Ceglarz, a member of the NBRTC from Ward 4, is making his second run at incumbent Democrat Peter Tercyak for the General Assembly District that includes John Paul II, Pulaski Middle School, Saint Francis Church and Holmes School polling places.

In 2014 Tercyak defeated Ceglarz for re-election in an uneventful race with both candidates participating in the Citizen Election Program (CEP) of public financing.  In the 2015 municipal election Ceglarz joined the Erin Stewart slate as one of five at large Council candidates.

His short-lived campaign for city office was anything but uneventful.  Soon after the July nominations racially-charged social media posts attributed to Ceglarz’ Facebook page surfaced spreading white nationalist, hateful memes that have become all too familiar in Trump Republicans’ playbooks and are ever present on Facebook and Twitter.

At issue were Facebook posts by Republican Ceglarz in which he shared and agreed with messages from right-wing groups defending the Confederate flag and referring to such organizations as the NAACP, United Negro College Fund and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund as “racist.” In another post President Obama is linked with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin over gun ownership rights. Ceglarz also disparaged minimum wage workers in disseminating his views at the time of his candidacy for City Council.

The offensive posts led to immediate calls for Ceglarz to exit the campaign by Democrats and drew in media coverage that eventually caused Stewart, protecting her “socially liberal” Republican brand outside of New Britain, to dump Ceglarz once the television and newspapers came calling.

The social media-savvy Mayor with a constant presence on Facebook professed no knowledge of the Ceglarz posts on the day she asked him to leave the slate. “Earlier today I became aware of several postings on Facebook, made by Peter Ceglarz, that were both ill-advised and indefensible in their nature. While I consider Peter to be a good friend, there is simply no room in this campaign for that sort of divisiveness,” the Mayor responded in a written statement.

Ceglarz complied with Erin Stewart’s order to withdraw but without any apology or remorse saying he was the victim of “a political hit job.”  Reacting to the press coverage back then Ceglarz, in a comment to the New Britain Herald, called the paper “the most biased and liberal paper in the state. Sorry but your recent story about me was the biggest B.S. and P.O.S. NICE way to kiss ass with (former Democratic Chair John) McNamara and (former Councillor David) DeFronzo and then calling things racist. Get your facts straight and cover the truth and not lies.”

Coming off the GOP bench to run a third time, the unrepentant 2020 Ceglarz has scrubbed his social media of any of the publically shared racist taunts that abruptly ended his run for office five Augusts ago.  Of more concern, however, is how his personal views may inform his stances on legislative issues that effect the residents of his district in a multi-cultural, diverse community. 

Unfortunately, Ceglarz’ 2015 posts are an example of the vitriol that has been injected via social media into New Britain politics going back to at least 2009. 

Last year older posts attributed to  Democratic Council candidate Antonio Lavoy, Sr. were widely condemned for vulgar remarks directed at Erin Stewart, transgressions for which Lavoy apologized.  And early in 2019 former Mayor Timothy Stewart referred to Democratic women in Congress as “bitches in heat” in a Facebook post during the State of the Union address, a flip remark that brought his forced resignation as head of the Chamber of Commerce after dodging an earlier controversy with the help of State Senator Gennaro Bizzarro, the city corporation counsel and Chamber Board Chairman. 

“Stewart had already been facing calls that he resign or be removed as the head of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce from a scandal from 2017 in which he made a comment that was widely criticized as racist,” according to the New Britain Progressive. “Stewart had made an online comment that, ‘Unfortunately the inmates continue to run the neighborhood,’ in a discussion regarding the city’s North Oak neighborhood, a neighborhood that has a large Latino and African American population.”

Inflammatory rhetoric, personal insults and racial invective are nothing new in political discourse in New Britain and elsewhere.  But social media — pervasive and unfiltered — accelerates division and does harm to  civic engagement.  There’s no stopping the bigoted and uninformed, egged on by the highest office in the land, to post their rants. But elected leaders and those who aspire to leadership have a special responsibility not to offend nor tolerate those who do so.

(Editor’s Note:  In 2015 I was the Democratic Party Chair and Mayoral candidate and was among Democrats calling for the withdrawal of Ceglarz from the Council race.)

 

 

 

Four Ways to Fight Racism in Your Town

Posted in city government, civil rights, Diversity, Racism, Uncategorized by nbpoliticus on June 24, 2020

Commentary courtesy of Otherwords.org

Spontaneous, peaceful protests have been occurring in New Britain over the murder of George Floyd and systemic police violence.  A rare 15 to 0 Common Council vote declared “racism is a public health crisis.” The movement is ramping up the pressure for a Civilian Review Board and changes in city government that would emphasize more community policing and de-escalation tactics in law enforcement and more funding to education and neighborhood services. 

This commentary by Gloria Oladipo, a Cornell University student, discusses activities to keep the momentum going.

By Gloria Oladipo June 24, 2020

For weeks since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests have erupted across the globe. While demonstrations in larger cities have drawn the most attention in the U.S., smaller communities can be — and are — involved in the fight for racial justice.

From Medford, Oregon to Meridian, Mississippi, and many places beyond, peaceful protests have attracted hundreds. Even those in conservative, majority-white towns — some with active KKK chapters — have gathered to reject racism and violence.

It’s an encouraging sign. But not all communities have been able to hold gatherings, especially at the height of COVID-19. Thankfully, there are other ways to contribute to the fight for racial justice, even if protests have not reached your area.

1. Educate yourself.

The first step to being an effective ally is to educate yourself on racism, both structurally and in your community. A number of books are a great starting point. I recommend Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

If you prefer watching to reading, Netflix has a number of documentaries to help understand racism and its role in the United States, including 13th and When They See Us.

Don’t forget to learn about racism and police brutality in your own community. Despite the media’s depiction of police brutality as an issue impacting mainly cities, many rural communities and suburbs also suffer from disturbing examples of police brutality.

Keep track of events in the local news. Meet with your local sheriff and ask about police accountability measures. You have a right to live in a town where the police aren’t a threat to you and others. 

2. Talk about racism at home.

One of the most impactful things that allies can do in the face of anti-Blackness is to discuss these topics at home, especially with racist people in your inner circles. Challenging racism inter-personally can help change the ideology of family and friends — or at least introduce a different perspective.

Educating your family and friends is the first step to creating new allies and fostering a more tolerant culture in your community.

3. Support racial justice organizations.

Organizations need resources to support activists on the ground, bail out protestors, and pay their bills. Funding is especially important for local organizations who may not have the same bandwidth as national organizations to raise money. For these small local groups, every dollar counts.

A simple Google search can produce thousands of results for local, smaller organizations in your area. If the internet is not accessible in your area, check local community boards. Often, groups will post flyers about events, opportunities for you to learn more about the work they do, and ways to donate to their efforts. 

4. Support struggling people.

Many Black people are exhausted and vulnerable. Many need financial help. Whether suffering from COVID-19, job loss, the death of family members, or marginalization on account of their race or gender identity, direct donations can change their lives.

Finding people in need isn’t difficult. GoFundMe has hundreds of thousands of people asking for help with basic needs. Twitter houses similar campaigns, including threads with women looking for donations to escape abusive situations or in need of general financial help.

Or, go through your local church. Ask your pastor or church board members if they are currently looking for donations to help marginalized people. Your dollars can and will change lives.

Don’t let Black Lives Matter be a passing, catchy slogan. Wherever you live, be an active ally who challenges racism at every opportunity. Everyone is responsible to fight against racism, now and always.

New Britain Election Postscript: “If Trump wins will I have to leave the country?”

Posted in civil rights, Diversity, Hate Speech, Immigration, New Britain, Presidential Politics, Racism by nbpoliticus on November 27, 2016

“If Trump wins will I have to leave the country?”

The question was asked of me by a Holmes School student when I was leaving the Masjid Al Taqwa mosque on Arch Street on a Sunday evening in August. It didn’t matter that the 5th grader has probably lived in New Britain all his life and that his parents — part of a growing Muslim American community in central CT,  vote and pay taxes.

“No,” I said without hesitation to reassure the Holmes student. “Even if Trump wins you won’t have to leave the country.”

My visit to Masjid Al Taqwa came at the invitation of  Alicia Hernandez Strong, a Weyleyan student, new officer of the Democratic Town Committee and a convert to the Muslim faith.   Evening prayer, a generous ethnic supper and a panel talk on voter registration organized by Strong were part of the evening that ended with that question from the student from Holmes, reflecting his worries and that of his  family and religious community in 2016.

Inscription at Memorial to New Britain 19th century peace activist Elihu Burritt in Franklin Square.

Inscription at Memorial to New Britain 19th century peace activist Elihu Burritt in Franklin Square. (Todesignllc.com)

Over and over again the Republican presidential nominee, amplified by an easily manipulated media,  spread an unfiltered message of exclusion and fear and “change” to make America great again. Campaign rhetoric  devoid of policy and ideas was mainly against people of the Muslim faith and  millions of others without a path to citizenship whenever Donald Trump took the stage.

In the aftermath of the election and Trump’s “win” concerns are escalating. In some places real acts of hate and violence are directed at  those who were the targets of Trump’s dog whistle rants.  His appointments, including Steve Bannon, the wife-beating publisher of  the ultra right and xenophobic Breitbart News, have done little to allay the concern.

Trump’s appeals to fear and exclusion wrapped in an empty economic populism, however, are producing counter measures.  Mayors, police chiefs, civic and religious  leaders, in their words and official actions, are pushing back against the campaign xenophobia that should make a President, even a vulgar demagogue of a President,  think twice about policies that sanction intolerance and bigotry and are a refutation of what Ellis Island was all about.

The mob portion of Trump’s support and maybe even Trump himself, emboldened by the election, will continue to fan hate and division. But there are millions of Trump voters, bothered by flaws in Hillary Clinton’s establishment candidacy or swayed by the fake news vitriol against her–who will want no part of  the hate and incivility that fueled the Trump candidacy.  In New Britain and elsewhere too many of their co-workers and the parents of children they see at the school where their kids go are on Trump’s hit list.

Post-election it’s up to me and you to tell that Muslim American Holmes School boy, or the Mexican “dreamer” student at CCSU seeking a fair path to citizenship or a refugee who got here from a strife-torn land:

No. You don’t have to leave the country because of your religion or where you are from no matter who the President is.  Your city is the “city for all people” and your neighbors won’t let that happen.

John McNamara