Some notes up front: Paul Congemi, who is running for mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, is not going to become the mayor. He's a fringe candidate who's run in the last three mayoral elections. According to the Tampa Bay Times, he only received a few hundred votes in each of his prior two elections.
But those facts don't excuse acting like a raging racist asshole, which Congemi did yesterday and then some. At a "mayoral forum" last night in St. Petersburg, Congemi sparred with a group of black residents who represented the Uhuru Movement, a Marxist campaign led by the African People's Socialist Party, which advocates for economic equality for black people.
By "sparred," we mean Congemi, a 60-year-old "singer-songwriter," literally told black residents that race relations are fixed now since Barack Obama became president, and then told any unhappy black residents to "go back to Africa."
Florida man running for mayor tells black activists fighting for reparations: "reparations came in form of Barack Obama...go back to Africa" pic.twitter.com/c5BwjQwP5P— Ray Downs (@raydowns) July 19, 2017
While Congemi's candidacy is a joke (more on that in a second), the insults highlight the basic roadblocks black people encounter when they ask for simple things like economic fairness. Last night, Uhuru member Jesse Nevel reportedly staged a protest at the forum and asked the candidates if they supported reparations for black people or black control of the police. Nevel is also running for mayor himself.
Congemi, wearing a strange floral shirt that made him look like Bam Margera's wizard uncle, then exercised his
"The reparations you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got their reparations," Congemi said, sparking laughter. "Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama."
"Get out of here!" a woman shouted in response. (Side note: There's a clear economic case for reparations.)
"My advice to you: If you don't like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport — go back to Africa!" he shouted. "Go back to Africa! Go back!"
(He also reportedly called LGBTQ people "sinful," in case you were wondering if he was an equal-opportunity bigot.)
This is far from the first time Congemi has proven himself to be a wrinkled, white cretin.
During his 2009 run for mayoral office, Congemi allegedly started screaming and swearing at customers at a St. Petersburg-area KFC. According to the Tampa Bay Times, someone called the cops, but Congemi told the police not to dare
And, earlier this year, he was arrested on charges of felony elder abuse, after allegedly neglecting to take care of his sick mother to the point that she developed sores so bad they exposed her tailbone. Those charges were later dropped, and he continued his mayoral run.
At a 2013 mayoral forum, Congemi read the passage from the Biblical Book of Leviticus that says gay people ought to be put to death:
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Yes, Congemi is a fringe character. No, he's not going to win an election. But his rant last night joined a disturbingly resurgent Florida tradition of screaming monstrous things at black people whenever they ask for basic human decency. Earlier this year, a Miami man, David Sanguesa, called a black Starbucks employee "trash" and screamed "I voted for Trump!" at her, after she simply took too long to make him a coffee.
And, likewise, a few open white supremacists representing the League of the South showed up to Hollywood, Florida, last month to bother peaceful black-rights protesters who wanted a street named after the first Ku Klux Klan grand-wizard to be renamed.
Overall, a New Times/