Roanoke Mayor Apologizes for Comments Justifying Japanese American Incarceration

Mayor David Bowers of Roanoke, VA. (Photo credit: Ryan Stone / Washington Post)
Mayor David Bowers of Roanoke, VA. (Photo credit: Ryan Stone / Washington Post)

Just two days after his absurd statement — wherein he justified turning away of Syrian refugees with the reasoning that the US federal government was correct in treating Japanese American citizens and nationals with similar racial suspicion and hostility — went viral, Mayor David Bowers has reportedly apologized.

Bowers’ three-paragraph press statement from earlier this week  buzzed through social media, with angry constituents and Asian Americans calling for the mayor to apologize and/or resign. Several officials of the state of Virginia — including Roanoke City Council members and Bowers’ own Vice Mayor — joined in that outcry, and condemnation of Bowers’ statement showered down upon the Mayor’s office from both sides of the aisle.

Roanoke City Council members called a City Council meeting today, urging Bowers to apologize and to call for his resignation if he refused to do so. WSET reporter Annie Anderson reported on Twitter in a series of tweets that a chagrined Mayor Bowers obliged with a public apology for his earlier statements on Japanese American incarceration.

Within minutes of Bowers’ apology, Asian Americans Advancing Justice issued a response that highlighted the deeper problem with Bowers’ statements: his policy to reject Syrian refugees. The full text of their press statement:

Roanoke mayor’s apology a step in the right direction, but position on Syrian refugees still troubling 

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers apologized today and took responsibility for his comments favorably citing the mass incarceration of “Japanese nationals” during World War II as a reason to bar Syrian refugees from resettling in Roanoke, Va. His apology comes after an outpouring of criticism and anger from the Asian American community, advocacy groups and the public.

“We appreciate Mayor Bower’s apology,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “The imprisonment of 100,000 innocent Japanese Americans without due process has long been denounced as unconstitutional. Still, in maintaining his position opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in America, Mayor Bowers repeats the offense of vilifying an entire community based on unfounded and irrational fears. We cannot let fear and prejudice blind us and dismantle the founding values of this nation of immigrants.”

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