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Arnold mayor under fire for saying protesters should be sprayed with hoses

Madasyn Czebiniak
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Courtesy of Karen Peconi-Biricocchi
Karen Peconi-Biricocchi

Arnold's mayor is under fire for suggesting on social media that people protesting the police shooting of Antwon Rose should be sprayed with powerful water cannons.

Mayor Karen Peconi recently shared a video on her Facebook page of water cannons being used to disperse protesters elsewhere. Some are violently knocked to the ground by the force of the water.

“We need one of these for tomorrow,” she wrote in a comment beneath the video.

Later she wrote “bring the hoses” and disparaged people protesting in the morning.

“None of them work. That's how they can do this at 7 a.m. … Very sad,” Peconi wrote.

She couldn't be reached. The door to her office at city hall was closed when a Tribune-Review reporter stopped there twice Tuesday morning, and staffers said they hadn't seen her. No one answered the door at her home, and she didn't return calls.

Her Facebook account has since been deleted.

WTAE-TV, which first reported on the Facebook post, said Peconi initially declined to comment but then said, “The mayor didn't post those.”

Arnold is home to about 5,000 people and about one-fifth of them are black, according to City-Data.com.

The mayor serves as one of the city's five council members. Three other members — Joseph Bia, Philip McKinley and Deborah Vernon — said they were disappointed in Peconi.

Bia said Peconi should resign and that the posts made him so sick he only got about two hours of sleep.

“What good would an apology do right now?” he said. “I can't see that that would do any good. This is just a huge negative mark on our city.”

McKinley described Arnold as a “diversified town” where people of all races support each other.

“I don't know what she was thinking, I really don't. She does not speak for the city of Arnold — she's speaking for herself. That's not what the entire city of Arnold or council thinks,” McKinley said. “People have the right to demonstrate as long as it's peaceful.”

Deborah Vernon said after a Tribune-Review reporter showed her the posts that Peconi's comments do not reflect her beliefs or the city's beliefs. She said she respects people's freedoms to peacefully protest and exercise their freedom of speech, but the posts were unacceptable.

“She has got to make this right immediately,” she said.

The Tribune-Review spoke with several Arnold residents who also were critical of the mayor's posts.

Alyasha Brown, 20, who is black, described the posts as racist and said it was unfair of the mayor to characterize the protesters as jobless or lazy.

Antonio X. Wilson, 54, of Arnold said the posts are “a bunch of hogwash” and “unprofessional.”

“It's a clear sign that racism still exists to this day,” he said.

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, [email protected], or on Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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