GUNTERSVILLE — A Guntersville City councilman has been accused of harassment and abusing his power for allegedly barring a citizen from a public meeting and threatening to call the FBI.
Councilman Robert Sanchez Watkins appeared in court Wednesday to contest the harassment allegations made by plaintiff Billy Ray Todd.
In a complaint filed on November 7, 2023, Todd accused Watkins of harassing communications when he allegedly tried to bar Todd from attending a NAACP meeting in Guntersville and threatened to report him to the FBI.
Guntersville City School officials and residents have been holding public meetings to address alleged instances of racism in the school system. The first meeting took place last May when several teachers and students were accused of discrimination and using racial slurs. Watkins spoke at the meeting along with the president of the Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Benard Simelton.
Todd has disputed many of the claims of racism made against teachers during that meeting.
"Watkins didn't like that I stood up for teachers who were falsely accused and proved innocent of racism by, him, NAACP, and Southern Poverty Law Center," Todd said in a post on X. "He threatened to call the 1st time police, 2nd time FBI on me if I showed up at the NAACP and SPLC meeting."
Watkins didn’t like that I stood up for teachers who were falsely accused and proved innocent of racism by, him, NAACP, and Southern Poverty Law Center.— Dr. Interracial 🇺🇸 (@billysandytodd) January 26, 2024
He threatened to call the 1st time police, 2nd time FBI on me if I showed up at the NAACP and SPLC meeting.
Watkins has denied the harassment allegations and said he never threatened to call the FBI. He told 1819 News that Todd made threats to disrupt the meetings.
Watkins said he had ample evidence to prove his side of the story and that Todd was trying to generate attention by going after a sitting city council member. Todd is the author of a children's book, "Johnny and Daddy," and has a sizable following on X, where he is known as "Dr. Interracial."
"I don't know what it is he's trying to do, but, I mean, nothing is going to come of it," Watkins said. "I showed all of the evidence of where he made his comments, making threats on Twitter, and he even made videos making threats that he was going to 'send in the troops' to hurt us at our meetings and disrupt our meetings… [The videos] are very damaging."
Todd denied making a video calling to "send in the troops" or any other threats.
Watkins continued, "I never harassed him, never tried to call the FBI. He's just trying to get attention to have something to say. He's trying to make it political. This has nothing to do with Democrats, has nothing to do with Republicans, this is about working with our school board to work things out for our kids and their parents so they can learn how to handle situations to where you don't have to call in the NAACP or Southern Poverty Law Center. We handle our own problems. That's what this is about, and he doesn't understand that."
Todd told 1819 News that he stands by his harassment claims against Watkins. The two met separately with lawyers in court Wednesday, after which it was decided to move the bench trial to April 3.
Todd said he asked that Watkins plead guilty and be given two years probation, which Watkins refused. Watkins said he just wanted Todd to leave him alone.
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