Chaldean Chamber wants Detroit senator’s aide to resign over Facebook post

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Craig Mauger The Detroit News
Lansing — The president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce says a Michigan Senate employee should resign or be fired over Facebook posts he made about Chaldeans’ use of “Black Bridge card money.”

The employee is LaMar Lemmons, a former state representative who now works as chief of staff for Sen. Betty Jean Alexander, D-Detroit. Lemmons has apologized for making what he called an “over-generalization,” and said he should have put “a qualifier” in his Facebook post.

Lamar Lemmons stands with state Sen. Betty Jean Alexander, D-Detroit, on the floor of the Senate.
Dale G. Young, The Detroit News
“By not putting those qualifiers in, I hurt some people so I apologize,” Lemmons said on Thursday.

Lemmons said his discussion of Chaldeans started with posts about the seven core principles of Kwanzaa. Lemmons said a Facebook friend began chiding the African-American community while boasting about Chaldean achievements.

Eventually, Lemmons posted, “Our Chaldean brothers used Black Bridge card money to establish banks! Bridge cards as you know, are redeemed for cash, right? They have established a multi-billion dollar empire from mostly Black dollars in the Black community.”

Lemmons added, “… (T)hey are now becoming major players in the legal cannabis industry even as many where (sic) engaged in the illegal drug industry prior to legalization, right?”

Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, said Lemmons was generalizing and accusing Chaldeans of illicit acts. Manna said the situation had led others to make negative posts, including levying threats on social media.

“I am hopeful that the leaders in the black community will see this for what it is,” Manna said on Thursday. “It is clearly discriminatory, hateful and trying to incite violence.”

On Wednesday, the Chaldean American Chamber issued a statement calling Lemmons’ post “insensitive, hurtful and wrong” and asked him to resign. On Thursday, Manna said Lemmons should be fired.

Lemmons, who previously served on the Detroit Board of Education, works for Alexander, a senator whom he helped get elected in 2018. Alexander, backed by Lemmons, pulled a surprise victory in the primary, unseating an incumbent Democratic senator, David Knezek.

Alexander didn’t respond to a request for an interview on Thursday afternoon.

Staffing decisions in the Senate are usually left up to individual senators.

“It would be highly unusual for the majority leader to make a decision regarding another senator’s staff,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

Manna said he’s received a phone call from Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and is scheduling a meeting with Alexander.

Lemmons said he isn’t going to resign and added that he can think of a “host” of people who have done things he thinks should lead them to resign.