City councilors were left wondering how to proceed on Feb. 6 after a remote speaker used the public comment section at a City Council meeting to spread antisemitism and racial slurs and promote white supremacy.
A few city councilors attempted to talk over the man’s comments, while some people in the audience at City Hall expressed confusion and alarm at the content of the speech.
he incident came a week after a similar situation at a City Council work session, when three remote speakers coordinated their messages to make antisemitic comments and spread conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel. The city posted a redacted recording of the work session without the public comments on the city’s YouTube channel.
In a response to a question from the public via Zoom, Mayor Barb Knop and City Attorney Ashley Driscoll said that due to Oregon’s broad free speech protections, hate speech could not be censored. Cities can place time limits on public comment, but have limited ability to restrict content.
“This is obviously something I didn’t think I was ever going to have to deal with,” Knop said. “So we are doing our best to sort it out, and again, I apologize.”
City councilors have met in executive session to discuss the issue and the city’s options.
“I think that if the council desires, we can have that conversation again and talk through some of our options and the risks associated with those options,” Driscoll said.
The city has posted a redacted version of the Feb. 6 meeting on its YouTube channel.