2 discrimination cases made against Virginia Beach grab attention of Human Rights Commission

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Two human rights claims have been made against the city of Virginia Beach in less than a month, and board members of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission have been listening.

Tonight, both cases are on their agenda for their meeting.

The first case involves NFL Hall-of-Famer and real estate developer Bruce Smith.

In an open letter to Mayor Will Sessoms, and at a press conference last month, Smith asked if race was a factor when considering business decisions in Virginia Beach.

Smith says for years he has tried to redevelop key areas of the Oceanfront, only to be turned down without much of an explanation. He asked the city for a disparity study.

“It is never easy to raise questions about race relationships,” Smith said during his press conference at Rudee Loop, “but it is long overdue.”

Mayor Sessoms declined to issue a disparity study, even though Smith offered to pay for half of it.

Then, days later, Cox High School officials cancelled a pride assembly the day before it was supposed to happen.

“Cancelling it at the last minute on a Sunday sends the message that a pride assembly somehow is controversial,” said Michael Berlucchi with Hampton Roads Pride. “Somehow, something we should be fearful of, or have trepidation, or tiptoe around, and in fact that is not true at all.”

The school said they made a mistake and should not have let the club plan the event during school hours. The event is being rescheduled.

According to their website, one of the main objectives of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission is “to serve as a forum for discussion of human rights issues, to conduct studies and to propose solutions for the improvement of human relations in the city.”

The commission is a group of people who make recommendations to council. Sources tell News 3’s Merris Badcock they are expected to decide whether or not to make a recommendation to council on both cases tonight.

Follow Merris on Twitter for up-to-the-moment updates from tonight’s meeting.