The mayor has apologized to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for racist incidents its members faced during the group's annual convention in Wenatchee in...
WENATCHEE The mayor has apologized to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence for racist incidents its members faced during the group’s annual convention in Wenatchee in September.
“I am stunned and appalled to learn of the very unfortunate and intolerable encounters some of your members experienced in our city,” Mayor Dennis Johnson wrote in a Nov. 30 letter obtained by The Wenatchee World. “I sincerely and deeply apologize … for the inexcusable behavior demonstrated by some members of our community.”
A few women who work at a women’s shelter in Tacoma said they faced racist remarks and were served last in a Wenatchee restaurant because they’re not white. One black woman in the group said she was asked to leave a local business because of her race, said Karin White Tautfest, director of operations at the Pierce County YWCA, where the women work.
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“Their first couple of days, people weren’t really sure that that was what was going on. But it just kept happening,” Tautfest said.
Tautfest declined to identify the businesses or the women involved. The incidents reportedly occurred during the coalition’s annual meeting Sept. 27-29.
Nan Stoops, executive director of the coalition, said the group has booked the Wenatchee Center for 2005 but may hold its convention elsewhere in 2006.
“They were comments that clearly made the individuals involved feel they were being targeted because of their race,” she said.
This year was the fourth time the convention center has hosted the event, which draws about 300 people from the group’s 64 member organizations.
A conference the size of the domestic-violence convention brings in about $40,500 a day to local businesses, according to the Wenatchee Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“It’s one of the larger events that we work with,” said Freyda Stephens, general manager of The Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel, which manages the convention center. “It’s one that we would not want to lose.”
The mayor told the coalition he’s working with city staff members and community leaders to develop a cultural-diversity program for local businesses and residents.
“The response from the city of Wenatchee is very heartening to me,” Stoops said. “That also influences our decision-making about where we go.”