In a written statement Monday to ABC11, publisher and editor Whitfield called the cartoon "insensitive" and said, "We are not a racist newspaper and we have cut ties with the cartoonist that drew the cartoon and we will no longer be publishing his material."
The cartoon, attributed to cartoonist Tom Stiglich, depicts a black man in a face mask stealing a purse from a white woman. While the woman screams for help, the man is depicted saying, "We defunded the police."
Many readers took to the newspaper's Facebook page, saying that the post fed into racist negative stereotypes of black men and misrepresented the "defund the police" movement.
Whitfield also published an editorial apologizing for printing the cartoon, saying in part, "I should have seen beyond the printed words in the editorial cartoon and considered the racial message that cartoon sent. I did not and I am sorry."
Luther Perkins of Personians Against Injustice and Racism said his group wants to talk to the owners of the newspaper to get a sense of what they plan on changing.
"That's something I can't condone because that's going against everything we're trying to build up," Perkins said. "it's making a divide in our city. We already got enough going on, we don't need any racial divide showing black men as being criminals or monsters because that's what we've been portrayed as."
Perkins said the cartoon's timing in the midst of a racially charged cultural climate just makes things worse.
"It really destroys what we're building up for the future generations to have a better life -- to focus on people living life without the challenges of the color of their skin," he said. "Equality is everything, and that's our goal is to be seen as equal and that picture depicted us as monsters or thugs and criminals or thugs and that's what we've been fighting."
Stiglich also released a statement on the cartoon:
First and foremost, may George Floyd rest in peace. he did not deserve to die like that. I do not condone racism or police brutality of any kind. I feel it's such a hostile environment we're living in right now, one that needs more law and order, not less. The rioting and looting was extremely disheartening. That cartoon was based on Bureau of Justice Statistics crime report numbers. To ignore that would be doing a disservice to the reader.
However, it is unclear to which "crime report numbers" Stiglich was referring; the latest data on the Bureau of Justice Statistics website is from 2018 and does not reflect the recent looting and riots following the death of George Floyd.
"We can't get our goal if when we do something positive - for two weeks, we've done positive protests, positive events and to have a picture depict us as thugs just because someone wants to support defunding the police is disrespectful," Perkins said.
The newspaper and cartoonist both came under similar scrutiny in 2015 when the newspaper published an editorial cartoon depicting riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
Last week, the co-owners of the Washington Missourian resigned in protest after their newspaper's publisher made the decision to run the same cartoon.