HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Organizations are again calling for the resignation of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle after Battle recanted statements he made that negated his support for convicted Huntsville Police officer William Darby.
State Representatives Laura Hall and Anthony Daniels, along with the Huntsville Rosa Parks Day Committee and other community leaders, held a news conference last week saying statements made by Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle in support of Darby were unacceptable.
Initially, a news release from the committee called for both the mayor’s and police chief’s resignations.
But, prior to the news conference, Rosa Parks Day Committee (RPDC) members met with the mayor, where they say he agreed to recant the statements he made supporting Officer Darby. The committee publicly accepted the mayor’s updated statement that was emailed to RPDC’s David Person, “I respect the decision of the jury. I respect Officer Darby’s right to appeal.”
So while they maintained their call for McMurray’s resignation/removal, they no longer sought the same for Battle.
The next day, Mayor Battle granted an interview to AL.com and issued a statement the committee says was contradictory to Wednesday’s statement. “I stand on both statements,” Battle told AL.com reporter Paul Gattis, referring to his initial affirmation of Officer Darby and the statement he sent to David Person.
The organization again wants to see Battle and McMurray removed from their positions as mayor and chief of police, either by resignation, or the city council removing them.
The Rosa Parks Day Committee is profoundly disturbed by the Mayor’s renewed affirmation of Officer Darby, and believe it reflects poorly on the city of Huntsville – especially as its role in state and national affairs continues to grow. We also believe that his alignment with Officer Darby raises questions about the Mayor’s understanding of our justice system and respect for the rule of law – and undermines the credibility of his own designation of Huntsville as an inclusive community via his “One Huntsville” campaign.
The committee also wonders how the Mayor’s endorsement of a murderer will affect Huntsville’s quest to be the headquarters of the highly anticipated Space Command. How will it be interpreted by the federal officials who are still debating what community is best suited to be Space Command’s home?
In light of the Mayor’s reversal of his commitment to our committee last week, we don’t believe we can dialogue with the Mayor in good faith at this time. So we will not be meeting with him on Thursday, May 20th at 9:30 a.m. as had been scheduled.
Further, the Rosa Parks Day Committee reinstates its call for the resignations of both Mayor Tommy Battle and HPD Chief Mark McMurray due to their support of convicted murderer Officer Darby. Additionally, in light of the recent report submitted by the Huntsville Police Citizens Advisory Council, as well as the comments by the Mayor and HPD Chief, we call on the Department of Justice to investigate the Huntsville Police Department for civil rights violations, discriminatory practices and malfeasance.”The Rosa Parks Day Committie
In response, Mayor Battle released a statement:
“I am disappointed the members of the Rosa Parks Day Committee have chosen to end productive dialogue. We had a good conversation last Wednesday and were set to meet again this week to collaborate on solutions for a better Huntsville. Progress is difficult without dialogue. This administration will continue to communicate with all interested parties seeking to build bridges and make this community and our police department the best they possibly can be. We look forward to many more productive meetings with our community partners.”
The allegations of hypocrisy from the committee regard the statements each city leader made following the guilty verdict in HPD officer William Ben Darby’s murder trial.
Parker had a gun to his own head and was talking with other officers at his home before Darby arrived and eventually shot Parker.
Darby’s attorneys argued that he followed his training and had to make a split-second decision in shooting Parker. Prosecutors said Darby was the aggressor and escalated the situation to violence when he arrived at Parker’s home.
Huntsville City Council approved spending $125,000 on Darby’s defense in the trial. After the verdict, both Battle and McMurray released statements disagreeing with the jury’s guilty verdict.