Dalila Ali Rajah
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First Out Mayor of Oklahoma Town Resigns Citing Threats

First Out Mayor of Oklahoma Town Resigns Citing Threats to His Safety

The first out gay mayor of a small town in Oklahoma has resigned on Monday citing threats to his safety following an incident with police from a neighboring town. 

Adam Graham was named mayor of The Village, a suburb of Oklahoma City, on May 2, but resigned his position in a public letter to the town’s city manager. He attributed his decision to an incident with police in neighboring Nichols Hills last month, where he’s been accused of verbally accosting officers as they cited an alleged traffic violator within The Village city limits.

“I loved my job as city councilor and mayor. It was a pleasure and a privilege serving my community and working alongside my constituents. Plus, I felt good at the work – like it was what I was intended to do,” Graham said in a statement released to The Advocate. “But when the social media attacks began and some bigoted elements of the community felt emboldened to use homophobic slurs, threats, and violence against me, I felt legitimately scared for my life. It wasn't safe for me to shop, drive or walk the dog in the community I was elected to serve. This emboldened hostility must be stopped.”

Activists expressed concern at the news of the resignation.

“We are devastated and angry that Mayor Graham faced harassment and physical threats to the point he will no longer serve in public office,” Elliot Imse, executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement to The Advocate. “No elected leader should ever fear for their physical safety, yet the threats are growing for LGBTQ people, people of color, and other marginalized people – and the consequences for our democracy are enormous.”

“All over the country we’re seeing a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ bias and harassment directed toward LGBTQ people and families and our allies,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement to The Advocate. “Teachers, librarians, school board members, and other public servants have become targets for violence fueled by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric spread by elected officials and blasted across social media and right-wing media.”

Graham lay blame for the alleged harassment and threats to his safety on a verbal altercation he had with Nichols Hills Police in May.

“This resulted from an incident two months ago where I stood up against Nichols Hills Police targeting The Village residents,” Graham wrote in his resignation letter. “I will never apologize for standing up for the people I was elected to serve.”

According to The OKC Friday, Nichols Hills Police said two of their officers attempted to pull over a driver for driving 43 mph in a 25 mph zone. The car did not stop until it was several blocks within The Village town limits. Graham allegedly pulled alongside the officers as they were issuing a ticket and began yelling at them through an open passenger side window.

“The man was telling me that we were in the wrong city and that ‘this is The Village, not Nichols Hills’ and that we can’t stop people in The Village,” Nichols Hills Police Officer Brandon Edwards wrote in an email to police chief Steve Cox that was seen by The OKC Friday.

The intersection where the initial traffic violation occurred was referred to by The Lost Ogle as “near the northern end of the town's legendary speed trap on Penn Ave., just blocks from where the thoroughfare transitions from the regal roads of Nichols Hills to the rough and tumble streets of The Village.”

Body cam footage of the incident reportedly exists but has yet to be released to the public. Nichols Hills and The Village have a cooperative agreement between police departments, and Cox indicated the incident was not out of the ordinary. Graham has refused to answer questions about the incident, both from reporters as well as constituents at a city council meeting held last month, according to The OKC Friday. His open letter contained his first public statements regarding the incident.

In his letter, Graham said the “malicious, bad-faith attacks” against him had escalated to the point he no longer felt “safe to serve” as mayor. He indicated he will remain active in the community, though, and gave a parting shot at the loyalties of some town officials.

“I will never understand why some officials are more concerned with representing the interests of Nichols Hills than the interests of their constituents,” Graham wrote in his resignation letter.

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