Citing ‘scary’ situation in Hong Kong, Ocala council member lends support to protesters

Citing a “scary” situation taking place in Hong Kong, an Ocala City Council member lent his support to protesters during a city workshop on Tuesday.

Council member Justin Grabelle, who represents District 5, made the remarks during a workshop for the city’s 2019-2020 fiscal budget. Addressing city staff and his fellow council members, Grabelle’s comments came after he expressed a sense of pride in the city’s democratic process.

“I’m just really proud to be in a city and a body like this where we’re able to speak openly and enjoy the democratic process,” said Grabelle. He went on to paint a stark contrast to the situation overseas that has been developing for nearly three months.

“They’re fighting for their ability to represent themselves, to live in a democracy, to live in a free country. What’s happening over there is scary. I think it should remind all of us that if anything, what we have can be taken away from us at any time. We have to remain vigilant, we have to fight for that,” explained Grabelle.

The situation which Grabelle made reference to is one that has seen weeks of protests from residents of Hong Kong who oppose extradition to the Chinese mainland. Hong Kong has operated as a special administrative region in China since 1997, when sovereignty over the territory was transferred from the United Kingdom to China.

In recent days, protesters have flooded the Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s largest, and have brought airport operations to a halt, resulting in hundreds of cancelled flights.

“It’s kind of unrelated, and it’s definitely not Ocala business, but I just wanted to send my support to the people who are fighting for their freedom right now. I just realize how fortunate we are,” added Grabelle.

Council member Matt Wardell echoed Grabelle’s sentiments.

“It’s scary when you see that in other places. Sometimes we get in here, we talk about chickens and stuff like that, we’re lucky to be able to do that,” said Wardell, referring to an ordinance passed earlier this summer that allows certain households to maintain chicken coops on their property within city limits.