With recent public discussions both in the U.S. and in Canada being focused largely on racism, several members of Edmonton’s Downtown Business Association issued a statement Thursday rebuking the organization’s executive director for a hashtag he used on Twitter.
In a tweet that has since appeared to be deleted, Ian O’Donnell recently used the hashtag #ALM, an acronym for All Lives Matter, a term that has been criticized because it is seen by many as a rejection of Black Lives Matter, a movement aimed at raising issues about racism and discrimination against Black people.
“We were deeply disappointed and offended by comments made yesterday by our executive director,” the DBA said in a statement Thursday. “In particular, using the phrase ‘all lives matter’ was insensitive, disrespectful and not reflective of our values.
“We thank all those who spoke up and raised their concerns.”
The DBA added that its “mission is to support, connect and enrich Edmonton’s downtown” and that it is “committed to creating a downtown that is diverse, inclusive and safe — and to advancing that vision in everything we do.”
O’Donnell’s tweet was one of a series of tweets in a Twitter conversation he was having with another user. While it is not entirely clear what the conversation was centring on, O’Donnell’s tweet with the #ALM hashtag said, “Dude, I respect those who respect each other, cops or otherwise.”
Global News has reached out to O’Donnell for more context about what the Twitter discussion was about.
On Thursday morning, O’Donnell tweeted that he was sorry for using the hashtag.
“I’d like to apologize for using a certain acronym that has hurtful connotations and associations,” the tweet reads. “This week, perhaps more than ever, is about tolerance, inclusiveness and respect.
“Let me be very clear, I have never wanted to ‘defend the system’ and certainly support the #BLM movement.”
A number of Twitter users, including Coun. Aaron Paquette, responded to O’Donnell’s apology on social media.
Paquette was among those who suggested the apology was an insufficient response.
“When my phone blows up in the middle of the night with messages from people who are floored and appalled by a statement that was actively defended for hours — and sent screenshots to prove it — I am certain that for them these words ring hollow today,” he tweeted.
“They will be looking for your actions going forward, watching your words. Their trust in you and the organizations in which you serve will have to be rebuilt. You hold a position of influence and power and people don’t want to be worried by that, they want to be assured by example.”
On Thursday, the DBA said it is committed to educating O’Donnell, including on the issue of unconscious bias. It also said it will take action to support staff who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) and include more of those staff in committees and leadership roles.
Among other steps the organization said it plans to take in support of the Black Lives Matter movement are to focus on “growing successful Black and other minority-owned businesses” in downtown Edmonton.
The Black Lives Matter movement and discussions about racism have been in the spotlight since late last month when George Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck. The death, along with other recent violent deaths of Black Americans, has triggered a conversation about racism, systemic racism and police brutality in both the U.S. and Canada and elsewhere in the world.
“As an organization, and as individuals, we stand with all those who are protesting systemic racism and injustice, and who are demanding justice, equality and true inclusion for the black community. Black Lives Matter,” the DBA said Thursday.
The organization also said it welcomes Edmontonians who will be attending a rally planned in the downtown core on Friday to protest racism.