The church where a controversial mayoral candidate event took place Wednesday is now responding to the incident.
Bolton Street Baptist Church in Savannah posted on its Facebook page Saturday morning stating: “Our church is a bridge building congregation; we do not condone division and exclusion based on race, color, gender, national origin or religious affiliation. We regret any misunderstanding and are instituting new policies to ensure any signs related to future meetings reflect our values and beliefs.“
The event took place Wednesday evening with a goal of convincing black voters in Savannah to support just one African American candidate for mayor.
Signs posted on the doors said “Black press only“. A number of media outlets were kept outside of the church due to the color of their skin. Flyers for the event also read “Black Media ONLY!“ and listed the “coordinators“ as Trigon Group.
Trigon Group lists Clarence Williams as president and lead consultant. The business is not registered right now with the State of Georgia.
Williams is also a reverend at Pilgrim Baptist Church. First, News 3 went to Trigon Group’s listed address on Bull Street. People there say they have never heard of the group.
Then, we went to Pilgrim Baptist Church’s listed address on Hopkins Street. Our GPS took us to a completely different church.
We met up with Reverend Williams who would not give News 3 another address for Pilgrim Baptist Church. On the church’s website, it says services are temporarily held at Greenbriar Children’s Center.
Williams would not answer any more questions, instead saying he was doing church work. He gave us a flyer with information about a community outreach event on Sunday.
There are only two African Americans who have active campaigns for the mayor’s race in Savannah this year: Regina Thomas and Van Johnson.
Both received invitations to the meeting and only Johnson accepted. Johnson held a press conference Friday and apologized for attending the event.
Mayor Eddie De Loach also held a press conference and called the event a “national embarrassment.“
In their Facebook post, Bolton Street Baptist Church also said, “We opened our doors again earlier this week for a community meeting, but Bolton Street neither organized the meeting in question nor authorize the production of or placement of exclusionary signs. We simply provided a venue for a community meeting to promote civic engagement as we have done many times in the past.“
However, some attendees News 3 spoke with say the event was not discriminatory and was a positive act for the community.
“Why make an issue out of it? Oh. I know why you make an issue of it, because they no longer have control. There’s a new day in Chatham County and in Savannah, Georgia. Folks are understanding they need retain their community and their leadership they must be the voice for themselves,“ said Dr. Amir Jamal Toure, a professor at Savannah State University and a community advocate.