The Ocala City Council voted on Tuesday evening to repeal a controversial ordinance that would have banned saggy pants. Despite support from Councilwoman Mary Rich, who introduced the ordinance, the majority of the council agreed the ordinance was not of importance to the city.
The “saggy pants” ordinance has been met with criticism from the NAACP, which claimed the ordinance was unfairly profiling African American men.
Councilwoman Rich disagreed on this point and voiced her thoughts on the importance of the ordinance throughout the meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s not true that I did this to profile black men. As you can see, I’ve been black a long time,” Rich said. “I have a black son, I have two black grandsons and two black great-grandsons. So, why I would I want an ordinance that would hurt them or any other young black person?”
Rich went on to say she believes the types of people who wear saggy pants also don’t have jobs.
“And when you don’t have money to feed your family, what do you do? Steal,” Rich said. “I don’t think we’re violating their First Amendment rights.”
Rich’s comments caused a visible stir in the chambers, with many in the audience shaking their heads in disagreement. One person who disagreed with Rich’s statements was Loretta Pompey Jenkins, president of the Marion County branch of the NAACP.
“I think that was a statement that she should not have said,” Jenkins said. “Of course, there are some issues out there with some of our young men, but it’s not for her to be broadcasting that in a city council meeting.”
Ultimately, Rich’s support and comments regarding the ordinance were not enough to prevent its repeal, with the majority of the council voting for it to be thrown out entirely.
James Hilty was one of the council members who vocally supported the repeal.
“It’s something that we just don’t need to be spending our time on or the reputation that we’ve gotten around the country now for this,” Hilty said. “We’ve got more important things to do. We just need to bring this to an end.”
Hilty’s thoughts were echoed by the majority prior to the final vote.
Jenkins said she was satisfied with the council’s decision on the ordinance, and was happy to put the issue to rest.
“I am very, very happy that council have come to the end of this road,” Jenkins said. “I think we have some logical, rational-minded councilmen that are of the opinion that we have some far more important issues that we need to be dealing with.”