A New Jersey mayor perhaps thought his words would smooth things over at an anti-discrimination rally over the weekend, but his speech just ended up earning him backlash. Mayor Sal Bonaccorso showed up at a gathering of between 50 to 100 people in Clark Township on Saturday, where he wasn't scheduled to speak. "He was just supposed to be there to listen to the stories and then have open dialogue for future action in the town," Hanif Denny, one of the rally's organizers, tells NBC News. But speak Bonaccorso did, and his words prompted "audible displeasure" from the crowd, per NBC. It started when attendees noticed the mayor joking with a friend, cigar in hand, while people were sharing their tales of negative racial interactions. "It's not enough to say, 'I'm not racist,'" one woman who confronted Bonaccorso said, as seen here. "You have to be anti-racist. OK? Pro-black."
The mayor's response: "I am pro-black, for all the good black people that I know in my life." The crowd reacted with groans, and the woman who started the conversation with Bonaccorso replied, "What does that mean?!" Bonaccorso tried to dig himself out by saying he was for all "good people," regardless of race, and that he wasn't racist, but the group wasn't having it. "I thought the mayor said whatever he could to avoid committing to that statement, being pro-black," Denny tells NJ Advance Media. In a Facebook statement Wednesday, Bonaccorso said that "my remarks may not have accurately represented how I feel" and that he wanted to clear things up. "An attendee asked me, 'Are you pro black?'" he wrote. "The answer is of course, and unequivocally, yes. I also truly believe that Black Lives Matter." He also noted that even though he's been mayor for decades, "I am still learning." (Read more New Jersey stories.)