Four of the 11 Ann Arbor, Michigan City Council members were inspired by NFL players and took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance in a council meeting to protest inequality.
Sumi Kailasapathy, a third-term council member, came to the idea after following the NFL protests, in which players have taken a knee during the National Anthem to protest social injustice throughout the nation.
To the councilwoman, this is a subject that hits close to home; she came to this country as a refugee after losing her home during the Sri Lankan civil war, which took place from 1983 to 2009.
“People tell me to go back to my country, and I don’t know how to tell them that this is my country, this is my home and I work very hard to take care of and support my community. If I leave, where am I going to go? ” Kailasapathy said.
When she moved to the United States, she continued her education and became a professor at Eastern Michigan University. She now works as a public accountant and gives back to her community as much as she can. Regardless of her achievements and contributions to her community, she still experiences discrimination.
“An act of attention”
During Monday night’s council meeting, Kailasapathy asked several City Council members to join her in the protest and Chip Smith, Jason Frenzel and Chuck Warpehoski agreed.
In an emotional blog post, Warpehoski wrote “I can’t speak to what is in each person’s heart, but for me to ‘take a knee’ is an act of attention, of concern, and of respect.” He also said he didn’t mean to offend anyone by his actions, let alone dishonor those who have sacrificed for this country.
Kailasapathy said she believes kneeling is not disrespectful, because it is our duty as citizens to contribute to this country, and people should not be judge because they are different.
“If you are someone who works hard to make your community and country a better place, you have the right to be treated with respect,” she said.
Kailasapathy and Warpehoski said they have received a lot of feedback, negative and positive, but have not received any backlash from other city leaders.
NFL players have been taking a knee during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ following the lead of former pro quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who pioneered the anthem protests last year over what he said was social and racial injustice.
That is what inspired Kailasapathy to take action in her own way. However, she doesn’t plan on kneeling at any meeting anytime soon and said she just wanted to take a stand and get her point across.