Group Wants Council Member Removed From Committee Chairmanship
HONOLULU -- Members of Hawaii's Hispanic community held a vocal protest in front of Honolulu Hale on Thursday evening, demanding Councilman Rod Tam be demoted.
The demonstration came after Tam used a racial slur during a televised council meeting.
Some in the Hispanic community are demanding Tam be ousted as chairman of the Council's Zoning Committee. They said Tam's remarks have triggered a backlash against Hispanics in Hawaii.
Protesters lined the sidewalk fronting City Hall chanting, "Tam has got to go!"
They are outraged about the videotaped remarks Tam made during a council meeting earlier this month -- about future construction workers at the planned West Oahu University.
"They got to be skilled licensed workers. We don't want any wetbacks basically... We have been having contractors, developers bringing in wetbacks from New Mexico... from Mexico, I sorry," Tam said.
Tam later apologized, but some Hispanics said Tam has not apologized to them and has refused to meet with the community.
The City Council, including Tam, unanimously voted to censure Tam. Some Hispanics want Tam further disciplined.
"We should not allow nor tolerate any politician to facilitate any type of bigotry to any type of ethnicity," Hawaii Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Marie Villa said.
Leader Marie Villa and other protestors want Tam stripped of his Zoning Committee chairmanship.
"We're not asking. We are demanding," Villa said. "We are not going to take this sitting down."
Hispanic community leaders are even more upset because of the backlash caused by Tam's ethnic slur.
"We are the ones who are suffering backlashes," Villa said. "I'm getting hate mail, hate phone calls." Villa received a letter in the mail attacking Hispanics and a bumper sticker telling illegal Mexicans to go home.
"We do not condone any type of undocumented workers of any ethnicity," Villa said.
Villa said she is saddened it has come to this.
"I've lived here 19 years, and we've always been able to fit until last week," she said.
Tam's assistant said the councilman made his apology and has no further comment