The last few weeks have seen an ongoing tit-for-tat taking place between a Gwinnett County commissioner, Sheriff Butch Conway, Dustin Inman Society President D.A. King and Duluth City Councilman Kirkland Carden over King’s participation in a Gwinnett 287(g) panel, and that saga took a new turn Tuesday.
Carden held a press conference at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center Tuesday to call on the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners to issue a public statement recognizing the contributions of immigrants and their descendants to Gwinnett; rebuking Conway for supporting King, who has been attacked by critics for using what they see xenophobic language against immigrants; and to conduct an informal investigation of Conway’s ties to the Dustin Inman Society and similar groups.
It’s all part of a complicated web of accusations and complaints that have been hurled throughout August as a debate continues on whether King’s input is welcome in Gwinnett as well as the legitimacy of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled the Dustin Inman Society a hate group.
“I was shocked that our sheriff, who was elected to represent and serve all of Gwinnett, would invite D.A. King as a spokesperson to represent his department on such a controversial, significant (and) impassioned issue,” Carden said. “D.A. King should be able to enjoy the same First Amendment protections as we all are, as any other American. However, hateful xenophobic rhetoric has no place in our county and should never be elevated to a public platform by the sheriff.”
Carden’s call for a public condemnation of Conway comes less than a week after King — who is from Cobb County — filed an ethics complaint against Fosque. The complaint was in response to a public rebuke against King that Fosque made at the Aug. 6 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Fosque was the organizer of the 287(g) forum in late July where King was invited by Conway to sit on the discussion panel.
King and Conway both defended King’s participation in the forum, as well as his reputation, in statements to the Daily Post earlier this month. Those statements were, in turn, a response to Carden launching a petition calling for commissioners to condemn Conway over his ties to King.
On Tuesday, Carden — who is running for the Board of Commissioners District 1 seat in next year’s elections — said the petition has received more than 1,000 signatures.
“It is imperative that the all five commissioners as a monolithic body — Charlotte Nash, Jace Brooke, Ben Ku, Tommy Hunter and Marlene Fosque — listen to over 1,000 Gwinnettians and other concerned Americans who have signed this petition urging them to act on this matter,” Carden said.
Carden — who stressed he was not acting on behalf of the city of Duluth — presented the petition, as well as a draft copy of a resolution condemning Conway to the commission at its meeting Tuesday night.
But Carden swears his effort to get Gwinnett commissioners to condemn Conway is not about 287(g), the national immigration debate, or even the SPLC — which King and his supporters have denounced as a “discredited” organization.
Instead, Carden pegged it solely on Conway and King, and their public statements — including remarks Conway made to the Daily Post earlier this month about King.
“Sheriff Conway’s actions have done serious damage to the reputation of Gwinnett County and calls into question his judgment,” Carden said. “Sheriff Conway has broken the public trust of Gwinnett County residents, regardless of their position on 287(g) or their political backgrounds.”
But King hasn’t been shy in fighting back criticisms of his involvement in the 287(g) forum, or his comments on immigration issues — comments that detractors have denounced as hate speech while he argues his comments are true statements.
He has particularly gone after Fosque — filing the ethics complaint against her.
During public comments at the commission’s Aug. 20 meeting, King singled Fosque out for criticism while denouncing the SPLC.
“I was invited to speak here by the sheriff of (Gwinnet County) on the 287(g) program,” King said. “It was one of the poorest run panels I’ve been on in my 16 years ... I will be back here very, very often. You do not scare me Marlene Fosque. I will fight you and I would be very, very surprised if you don’t receive an ethics complaint very soon.”
King came back to commission Tuesday night and said he might have been a bit heated a week earlier and offered an apology.
He then compared the treatment he and like-minded people have received from critics to the way women accused of being witches in the 16th and 17th centuries were treated.
“In the 16th and 17th centuries accused witches were dragged to the nearest body of water, stripped to their undergarments, bound and then tossed in to see if they would sink or float,” King said. “An accused who sank was considered innocent. Floating indicated the accused was guilty of witchcraft.
“I will not be at all surprised a similar test given to people who stand up in a room like this and say that we should enforce our immigration laws.”
Meanwhile, Conway has also been vocal in his support for King in recent weeks.
“I’ve known D.A. King for years as a passionate advocate whose life’s work is raising awareness of the importance of immigration enforcement,” Conway told the Daily Post earlier this month. “Mr. King has worked extensively with Georgia legislators over a period of many years to help create immigration laws in Georgia and has been featured in numerous mainstream media publications over the years, including a front-page profile in the New York Times.
“I consider D.A. King a personal friend and appreciate his support of the 287(g) program and his willingness to assist us in our efforts to educate the public about the importance of this program to our community.”