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Push for Kluskiewicz to step down from council continues with online petition, Tuesday protest

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/13/20

An online petition calling for the resignation of Middletown Borough Council member Richard Kluskiewicz has more than 300 signatures as of Saturday, and the Middletown/Royalton Borough Democratic …

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Push for Kluskiewicz to step down from council continues with online petition, Tuesday protest

Richard Kluskiewicz
Richard Kluskiewicz
Posted

An online petition calling for the resignation of Middletown Borough Council member Richard Kluskiewicz has more than 300 signatures as of Saturday, and the Middletown/Royalton Borough Democratic Club of Dauphin County will hold a protest before Tuesday’s borough council meeting calling for him to step down.

Recent posts that Kluskiewicz made on his personal Facebook page include a cartoon titled “Defund Democrats,” which depicts an image reminiscent of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, when Floyd was being held down by a police officer who was kneeling on his neck. The cartoon, from the website conservativefiringline.com, makes reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and “Decades of Democratic Policies.”

Kluskiewicz apologized for that cartoon, but has not addressed others. They include images portraying Gov. Tom Wolf as a Nazi for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and derogatory comments about Secretary of Health Rachel Levine being a transgender woman.

Another screen shot sent to the Press & Journal is a link Kluskiewicz posted May 26 depicting a black man voting Republican who “immediately turns white.” The link is from the satirical website babylonbee.com.

Kay Wealand, chairwoman of the Middletown/Royalton Borough Democratic Club of Dauphin County, has called on Kluskiewicz to resign. She said that she and her group are not satisfied that Kluskiewicz is “sincere” in his apology. She said they also do not believe Kluskiewicz is capable of representing all Middletown residents equally.

Wealand told the Press & Journal on Wednesday that the club is planning to hold a protest as part of the next scheduled Middletown Borough Council meeting on Tuesday, to continue their calls for Kluskiewicz to resign.

People will be asked to assemble around 6 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Municipal Building. Then, during the council meeting that starts at 7 p.m., Wealand expects many of those gathered to call for Kluskiewicz to resign during the public comment period.

The meeting will be held in the MCSO building in order to comply with social distancing guidelines because of the coronavirus.

Among those expected to be part of the protest is Janelle Welkie, a lifelong Middletown resident who has started an online change.org petition seeking Kluskiewicz’s resignation. The petition had more than 310 signatures as of Saturday morning, although it is not clear how many of the online signers actually live in Middletown.

The petition notes not just the cartoon referring to the death of Floyd that Kluskiewicz apologized for, but also the depictions of Wolf and the “transphobic” images of Levine that Kluskiewicz has yet to publicly account for.

Welkie said she was motivated to act after seeing articles about Kluskiewicz’s posts in the Press & Journal and on PennLive. 

“I just felt so angry that this could happen, an elected official who is supposed to be representing everybody in the borough saying these hurtful things,” she said. “Definitely in the setting of this climate we are in, I felt kind of empowered to do this. It was something I could do at a local level. Maybe I can make an impact at this level.”

Welkie said she had never done anything like this before, and said she is “not a political person.” 

She declined to state her own political affiliation, saying “we don’t need the divisiveness of politics in this. We need to unify.”

Wealand has said that despite her group representing Democrats, it is Kluskiewicz who made the issue “political,” not only with the “Defund Democrats” post but in his apology, where Kluskiewicz states that “For Forty (40) years, the Democratic Party has represented the African American community at the National level and has done very little to help them.” 

“I am disturbed by this and that was the message I was trying to make,” Kluskiewicz said in the post he made Monday reacting to the calls for him to resign. “Despite my intentions to pass along that message, it obviously got lost in the imagery of the picture. So again, for that reason I would like to apologize to the public.”