Protester slings racial slurs at Pinellas Co. commissioner

Everyone in the Pinellas county commission chambers Tuesday afternoon agrees they were shocked when Rondale McDowell singled out the only African American on the board. 

"Ken Welch is one of those who we call- excuse me- a house n****," McDowell said during the open forum portion of the meeting. 

Then he did it again. 

"There's no way I'm going to allow this system, these racists…"- he declared with a sweep of arm toward the commissioners -"…and this house n**** …" 

As the speaker rambled on, Commission Chairman John Morroni interrupted him. 


The term McDowell invoked at one time referred to slaves who worked inside the homes of their owners. 

"His words went over the line of decency in my mind," Commissioner Janet Long recalled Thursday. Of three commissioners contacted by FOX 13 News, she was the only one who agreed to speak on camera about the incident after learning about McDowell's recent history. The other two declined, citing concerns for the safety of themselves and their family.

Rambling emails and very recent YouTube postings by McDowell suggest he has some complaint with the judicial system. He refers to whites who do not respond to him as "bigots,  and unsympathetic blacks as the epithet he used Tuesday. 

His protests in outdoor public spaces have led to three arrests since February. 

"What's most concerning for the business owners is he's utilizing a lot of racial slurs to the point where many of their customers have expressed a fear for their own safety," said Michael Puetz, spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department. 

Puetz provided police reports dating back to 2011, most of which initially dealt with McDowell as a complainant. 

"Most of the complaints we're now receiving seem to follow the same vein: Screaming, yelling, hollering,” Puetz explained. “The most upsetting part are the racial's causing concern for a lot of folks that are having to deal with him."

Other public officials contacted Thursday by FOX 13 News were unusually unresponsive to questions. County administrator Mark Woodard did not return telephone messages. County Attorney James Bennett declined to comment before discussing the issue with county commissioners. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was out of town. A public information officer with that agency did not follow up on an initial inquiry.

Only Long, who said she does not scare easily, agreed to comment.  Asked directly "Are we passing from concerns of decorum to concerns of security?" Long answered "I think we are."

The same cell phone number is on all of McDowell's arrest documents, which also say he is a transient.  No one answered calls to that number, and a recording said the voicemail has not been set up.