Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale says he won't resign because of calls from Philadelphia 76ers player Tobias Harris and others over comments Gale released on Monday about the protests in Philadelphia.
In a statement, titled "Riots and Looting in Philadelphia," Gale described the Black Lives Matter movement as a "radical left-wing hate group" protesting a "bogus narrative of systemic police brutality and white racism."
"What we saw this weekend in Philadelphia was not a protest -- it was a riot," Gale wrote and posted online. "The perpetrators of this urban domestic terror are radical left-wing hate groups like Black Lives Matter. This organization, in particular, screams racism not to expose bigotry and injustice, but to justify the lawless destruction of our cities and surrounding communities. Their objective is to unleash chaos and mayhem without consequence by falsely claiming they, in fact, are the victims."
Philadelphia 76ers player Tobias Harris called for Gale to resign Tuesday. Others, including members of the Norristown Borough Council, have joined in demanding Gale leave his post as one of Montgomery County's three elected commissioners. The other two, Democrats Val Arkoosh and Kenneth Lawrence Jr., denounced Gale's statement.
Thousands have protested in Philadelphia every day since Saturday over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. Protesters have called for the end of police brutality and inequality toward treatment of minorities.
Despite Gale's claims in his statement Monday, much of the protests have been peaceful while some looting has occurred in what officials describe as unrelated criminal acts.
Gale is one of the few remaining Republicans in power at the county level in southeastern Pennsylvania following years of Democratic gains throughout the region. He has consistently come in conflict with Democrats and Republicans alike.
He famously declared himself one of the first -- if not the first -- supporters of Donald Trump for president in all of Pennsylvania.
He told NBC10 on Wednesday that he "will not be bullied and pushed around for speaking the truth and exercising my First Amendment rights."
"The online petition calling for my resignation is a tool to silence me and those I speak for and consists of left-wing activists signers from all over the nation. It’s no reflection of the voters who elected and re-elected me," Gale said. "Millions of signatures could have been collected demanding President Obama’s resignation when he was in office and the same could be done now against President Trump."
Gale, of Plymouth Meeting, was elected to a second four-year term last year despite a challenge from candidates picked by the Montgomery County Republican Party.
Asked if a 76er starting a petition to have pressure him to leave office would affect how he feels about the local NBA team, Gale said, "I have not watched the Sixers since Allen Iverson left."
In a June 2016 interview with NBC10, Gale confidently predicted that Trump would win the presidency and seemed gleeful in his disdain for the Republican establishment in Montgomery County and Pennsylvania.
"In reality, I'm head of the Republican Party," he said in the interview. "I'm de facto head of the party here."
"They're useless," he added of Republican leaders. "I don't need them."
On Wednesday, he repeated those sentiments.
"I am a conservative outsider elected in four county-wide elections without the endorsement or support of either the Republican establishment or Democrat establishment," Gale said.
He also said that the removal of the controversial Frank Rizzo statue from its location near City Hall in Philadelphia was "a grave mistake" by Mayor Jim Kenney.
Rizzo, a former police commissioner and mayor of Philadelphia in the 1970s and 1980s, is one of the most divisive figures in the city's modern history. In recent years, Rizzo has been seen as an enduring symbol of institutional racism in the Philadelphia police department.
"Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney ... sent a message that if you torch police cars and loot stores, he will concede to your demands," Gale said. "This was not only a weak decision, but it sets a very dangerous precedent. We do not need appeasement right now. We need law-and-order."