City officials and council members are reeling after an incident involving councilman Ed Gornall went viral on social media over the weekend.
Saturday afternoon, Gornell visited Mother Bear’s Pizza in Bloomington where he was served by an unidentified man wearing a protective face mask that read “Black Lives Matter.”
A photo of a receipt for the meal posted online — with Gornall’s name and signature clearly visible — shows the councilman declined to tip, but included the words “All Lives Matter” in all caps at the bottom of the receipt for the server, sparking a quick wave of outrage.
The incident was captured and shared online by Illinois resident Scott Wheeler, who noted in his Facebook post that Gornall is a member of the Vincennes City Council.
The original post has since been shared 170 times and garnered thousands of comments amongst those shares.
Mayor Joe Yochum said a deluge of messages and comments via Facebook brought the incident to his attention Sunday and prompted his swift online response.
On his Facebook page, the mayor said the actions by Gornall “are not condoned by my office or administration and they do not reflect the inclusive and diverse policies of the city of Vincennes.”
In response to the social media backlash, Gornall took to his own Facebook page to offer an explanation of his actions Saturday afternoon.
Describing service at Mother Bear’s Pizza as poor, the councilman said what added to his frustration was that the server “had the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ hand drawn on his face mask.”
Gornall went on to say that it’s his “biblical convictions” that led him to respond with the hashtag “All Lives Matter.”
On Sunday, councilman Marc McNeece issued a statement calling for Gornall’s resignation. McNeece said that while Gornall exercised his right of free speech and expression, the action comes with consequences.
Describing Gornall’s actions as showing “a lack of empathy and understanding as well as deafness to the civil unrest all around us,” McNeece indicated Gornall’s ability to function productively on the council seems unlikely.
As protests continue in hundreds of cities across the U.S., following a disproportionate number of deaths of Black Americans by police force, it’s clear that divided passions about the Black Lives Matter movement are running high in Vincennes as well.
Hundreds of area residents have weighed in on the recent incident, with some showing staunch support for Gornall “standing up for what he believes in” and exercising his right to freedom of speech, while others vehemently denounced his actions and encouraged his resignation.
City council president Tim Salters says it’s unclear what, if any, action will be taken by the council, but he hopes all community leaders and elected officials will see they must hold themselves to a higher standard.
“The way we treat people — that’s one of those things we have to constantly think about,” he said. “And if we’re not holding ourselves to a higher standard, then why would others follow those values we’re preaching?”
At this point, Salters says members of city government have differing opinions about “how this should play out.”
“Whatever the way forward, we’ve all got to work together to figure this thing out,” he said.
In a later posting, Gornall said he drove back to Bloomington on Sunday, spoke with the server personally and left him a $25 tip.
“He told me all is good,” Gornall wrote on social media.
He also said he didn’t believe the incident reflected upon his ability to serve as a councilman.
“It only shows my lack of sensitivity to others and their beliefs,” he wrote.