Gay rights activist removed, reinstated to Rockland County Human Rights Hall of Fame

Officials said their initial reason for revoking the induction was the activist's conduct during the induction ceremony on Feb. 12.

Ben Nandy

Feb 20, 2024, 10:57 PM

Updated 53 days ago

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Rockland County officials revoked the recent induction of a local activist into the county's Human and Civil Rights Hall of Fame, then reinstated him two days later.
Officials said their reason for initially revoking the induction was the activist's conduct during the induction ceremony on Feb. 12.
"I'm not leaving unless I'm done," gay rights activist Joe Coe said during his induction speech, as the ceremony's emcee approached the podium trying to cut his speech short.
Organizers were trying to keep each of the four inductees' speeches to two minutes to keep special guest Martin Luther King III and his security on schedule.
Coe's speech went for about 10 minutes until the emcee, Virginia Norfleet, took the microphone, forcing him to wrap up.
"I regret that they put me and others in a position where we needed to feel so intensely scrutinized," Coe said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Coe received a letter on Feb. 16 from Rockland County Human Rights Commissioner Spencer Chiimbwe informing Coe his induction had been revoked.
County Executive Ed Day said he supported Chiimbwe's initial decision.
Coe made a comparison between him and Day.
"He's a man who has gone on the record saying he was going to grab the mayor of New York City by the throat just a year ago," Coe said of County Executive Day's fight with Mayor Eric Adams, "People get passionate and say things. I got passionate and said the event was a sham."
After an outcry on social media and among other lawmakers, County Legislature Chairman Jay Hood worked out a deal with Day: Coe could be reinstated if he stated his regret in a letter.
In an effort to "end all the drama," Coe wrote in a letter to Hood that he could have handled the situation better.
"I regret deeply how the event transpired," Coe wrote. "I was surprised to be given such a short time to speak and wasn't prepared to cut the remarks I had labored over for a week. In retrospect, I could have found another way to make sure my story was still told."
Day said he was also glad to end the drama.
"I'm glad we did because it just reinstills how special the day was," he said.
Day also admitted in a press release on Monday that he should have reached out to the county legislature before Coe's induction was revoked.
"While I stand by my authority to make these types of decisions, I also recognize the importance of my positive relationship with the chairman and Legislature," Day wrote.
Legislator Hood said that for four days between the event and the initial letter revoking Coe's induction, neither Day nor Chiimbwe consulted the county Legislature about a decision that they said was likely to be publicly criticized.
"This is totally newsworthy when someone's removed from the Civil Rights Hall of Fame," Hood said.
Hood said he is planning another Human and Civil Rights Hall of Fame ceremony for March 19, and the four inductees will have plenty of time for their speeches.


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