The San Luis Obispo City Council meeting was interrupted Tuesday night by a group of anonymous people spewing racist and antisemitic comments — a move that has the city considering how best to handle similar disruptions in the future.
In a statement to The Tribune on Wednesday, Deputy City Manager Greg Hermann said during public comment that “several individuals used the anonymity of Zoom to make racist and discriminatory statements.”
“The City Council immediately called for a recess, moved the remainder of the public comment period to the end of the meeting, where possible, and reminded participants, virtual and in-person, of our civility guidelines for public comment,” Hermann said. “When public comment resumed, we advised that no one in the room was obligated to listen to the comments and offered an opportunity for all of those present to leave the room.”
Attendees Tuesday night told The Tribune the people repeatedly used the N-word and made antisemitic comments.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has used a hybrid model for council meetings, allowing residents to call or Zoom into the meeting as well as comment in person.
Similar situations have arisen around the state in recent months, including in Sacramento where the city has since stopped allowing people to give public comments by phone during council meetings after a small group continued to call in pretending to comment on agenda items before suddenly hurling discriminatory slurs.
Hermann said the City Council and staff continued the meeting after the initial interruption, but “the individuals on Zoom also continued to violate our civility guidelines throughout the meeting and were cut off each time.”
“The city of San Luis Obispo denounces racism and discrimination in all forms as contrary to our vision of a community that is welcoming, inclusive and safe for all,” Hermann said. “We value public input as an essential part of democracy and encourage all community members to share their voices at public meetings in a respectful, constructive way.”
Hermann said the city is looking into how it would address similar situations in the future.
“We will continue to support a diverse community, embrace equity, and practice inclusion and we are also considering ways to prevent this type of disruption in the future,” he said.