WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo is reacting after a large group protested at Tuesday’s city council meeting with a list of demands.
The group of roughly 100 protesters was made up of Black Lives Matter activists and the Wilmington Advocacy and Protest Organization. The group appeared before City Council with a list of seven demands, including re-allocating $5 million for community led interventions, a citizens review board, and requiring cultural competency and training of local history.
“There were some demands made upon city council to redirect $5 million,” Saffo told WWAY on Wednesday. “To what organization, nobody could really tell us.”
The mayor says while he is happy to hear suggestions and feedback from the community, it came too late for this year’s budget.
“Unfortunately, the folks that were demanding these 5 million additional dollars to be taken away from the police department came to us two weeks before we adopted the second reading of the budget after seven months of a lot of work,” he said.
Saffo says major changes to the city’s budget, such as taking $5 million away from the Wilmington Police Department, would need to be discussed with county leaders.
“I’m not opposed to taking a look to see what we can do for additional social programming, but we’re not the only government in the county of New Hanover,” Saffo said. “You just can’t do it on the back of the city taxpayers, we’re all county taxpayers and that would be a discussion that I would want to have with my counterparts at the county.”
Mayor Saffo says the city will begin working on the 2021-2022 budget in December of this year. He says that would be a good time to continue this conversation.
The mayor also addressed some unrest and five arrests at Tuesday night’s protest, and responded to the possibility of reinstating a curfew for protesters.
“We don’t want to go there, I think these folks have demonstrated over time that they can do peaceful demonstrations,” Saffo said. “But that could change possibly, and if it does change, the chief will come to me or the sheriff will come to me and say this is what we think needs to be done.”
Protests are expected to continue indefinitely.