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DeSoto Historical Society bans Bradenton City Council member from Grand Parade

Video: Bradenton city councilman grabs volunteer at seafood festival in Palmetto

Palmetto police surveillance video captures Bradenton City Councilman Bill Sanders forcefully grabbing a volunteer's shirt at the DeSoto Seafood Festival.
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Palmetto police surveillance video captures Bradenton City Councilman Bill Sanders forcefully grabbing a volunteer's shirt at the DeSoto Seafood Festival.

It’s one of the biggest parades of the year, but the DeSoto Heritage Festival Grand Parade through Bradenton on Saturday will be absent one city councilman as the DeSoto Historical Society has banned Bill Sanders from participating.

Sanders, the Ward 4 councilman elected last fall, was captured on video on the opening night of the DeSoto seafood festival in Palmetto earlier this month grabbing Terry Wilson, a DeSoto Historical Society volunteer. Sanders was being asked to leave the VIP area for letting in people who were not credentialed guests of the event’s sponsors.

It’s an incident that has “embarrassed this city to no end with his ridiculous behavior at the festival,” said Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo. “He keeps saying his victory was a message that people in Bradenton wanted change, but I don’t think that’s the change people wanted.”

Wilson would not comment further on the Sanders ban. After the scuffle, he said Sanders would not be invited to any other DeSoto events, which the board of directors has upheld.

John DeLesline, president of the DeSoto Historical Society, did not return a call for comment.

Sanders would only say that he had “no intention to participate” and he would be out of town on Saturday.

However, Sanders did have a car reserved for him prior to the seafood festival incident. The car has been pulled from the parade’s lineup.

On April 10, Wilson publicly apologized on social media for the publicity the incident generated, noting, “I am truly sorry if I personally offended anyone.”

About 125 people reacted, noting Wilson had nothing to apologize for. Some wrote Wilson is a “stand up guy,” and, “You are a credit to our community.”

Wilson said on social media that the outpouring of support was overwhelming.

The video from the seafood festival shows Wilson approaching Sanders, leaning in to inform Sanders he had to leave. Sanders is shown reaching up and grabbing Wilson by the shirt, pushing him backwards but maintaining his grip. Wilson, on the other hand, never makes an aggressive move before or after Sanders grabbed him.

Many in the public have called on Sanders to apologize for his behavior. The Palmetto Police Department noted in an incident report that Sanders was, “drunk and causing problems.

Sanders has made no mention of the incident on his Facebook page and has not apologized. The only reference to the incident to date was at an April 10 city council meeting where Sanders joked to a speaker that, “It’s not always good having your name in the newspaper.”

Other elected officials in Palmetto and Bradenton have not brought up the issue in public, but some did chime in on social media.

Palmetto Commissioner Jonathan Davis wrote on Wilson’s Facebook apology post that, “Those of us who know what happened, no apologies needed by you. Thank you for being so gracious during this whole thing.”

Sanders fueled some additional controversy with an exchange with someone on Facebook on April 18. Sanders and the individual got into an online exchange about an unrelated post, at which time the other individual questioned how Sanders spent his work hours.

Sanders parade ban Facebook comments photo.jpg
Bradenton Ward 4 Councilman Bill Sanders got into an online dispute with a follower on April 18 where he claims Mayor Wayne Poston and the other city council members hardly ever work. He has since deleted the comments.

Sanders suggested to the individual, “How bout harassing our other councilman and mayor that are hardly (ever) working.”

When asked to respond to those remarks, Sanders did not return a call for further clarification and has since deleted the comments.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston took exception, noting “I’m not surprised,” Sanders was banned. As to his comments about him and the council hardly ever working, Poston said, “For him to say that is patently ridiculous.”

Gallo did call for Sanders to publicly apologize on Tuesday and it’s not the first time.

During his campaign, Sanders said elected officials, as well as police department employees and city staff, were corrupt. Gallo called for a public apology to which Sanders never responded.

“Yes, he should apologize,” Gallo said. “This is the second issue since I’ve known him that he should be apologizing to the city council and to the mayor. I resent the fact that he thinks we don’t do anything. I’m here every morning and today was the first day I’ve seen him in weeks.”

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Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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