A St. Louis County commissioner who didn't take part in a moment of silence for George Floyd on Tuesday said he was attending to "a personal matter" and meant "no disrespect."
Commissioner Keith Nelson, representing St. Louis County's 6th District in Virginia, is under fire from the public and his colleagues for walking out during a Board of Commissioners meeting that overlapped the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence ordered by way of proclamation from Gov. Tim Walz.
The meeting was streamed live on Facebook, and it shows the group taking a 10-minute recess and then resuming with Gov. Walz's proclamation, which suggested standing in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the amount of time a former Minneapolis cop held his knee against Floyd's neck prior to his death May 25.
After the board agreed to have the proclamation read aloud, Nelson is seen leaving the meeting after briefly motioning to Board Chair Mike Jugovic, who had asked board members to stay on for the proclamation. He's seen returning when the meeting resumed from its recess about 15 minutes later.
In a statement to Bring Me The News, Nelson said "I left briefly during a Board recess to address a personal matter I asked our Board Chair before leaving. No disrespect intended to anyone."
You can see the moment here, starting at 1:26:07.
Commissioner Beth Olson (3rd District) posted to Facebook saying Nelson "refused" to take part in the "small but yet important" moment for Floyd.
"Commissioner Nelson walked out and refused to participate. He refused to stand to honor the life of a brutally murdered man. Refused," Olson said.
"White people have a incredible and profound call to stand with and follow, repeat follow, the leadership of our Black Community. I’m so embarrassed, sad, angry and frustrated to serve on this board where flagrant racism abounds. This is not political - or shouldn’t be - it is about our collective humanity. I will continue to do my best during my time left to shift this culture."
Nelson told FOX 21 that he is a diabetic, with board chair Mike Jugovich telling the Northland TV station that Nelson's timing wasn't great, but "he has some health issues" and had an upset stomach.
Additionally, a spokesperson for St. Louis County issued a media statement saying: "Commissioner Nelson had previously indicated to several staff that he was dealing with a personal matter and needed to step out. He has since said that he believed the Board was in recess."
Backlash from the incident has turned up video from 2007 in which Nelson said he would've voted for slavery if residents in his district supported it.
"If the people in my district had voted for slavery, and if the vast majority had, and I was representing them, the answer is yes, I would have voted for it," Nelson said. "Because that's my job. My job is to represent the people in my district. It is not to impose upon them my will. That is called the totalitarian state. Last I saw, we still live in a democracy."
Nelson has served on the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners since 2003.
Bring Me The News has reached out to the county's six other commissioners for comment.