Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Antisemitic Vitriol Shared at California Municipal Gathering

The South Lake Tahoe City Clerk Susan Blankenship introduces the next Zoom public commenter and tells him he has four minutes to talk. Camera off, a Zoom screen revealing “Levi” produces a male voice thanking council for the opportunity and announcing he has a speech to read.

Levi went on to make antisemitic remarks at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. He referred to Jews as parasites, anti-American, racists and the holocaust as the holo-hoax, stating “The holocaust never happened, but it should of.” In his sign off, Levi used profanities against Jews, hailing Hitler and white power.

He began his speech discussing the First Amendment, claiming city governments that cut off unpopular speech set themselves up to be sued. He cited a case in Los Angeles where a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood received $215,000 in a lawsuit alleging constitutional rights violations when he was escorted out of a government meeting.

Levi went on to explain the Supreme Court has ruled there is no exception to hate speech in the the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. He stated, “Restricting free speech is dangerous. Without the option, how else would you expect people to address their grievances?”

After Levi completed the speech, Clerk Blankenship prompted the next virtual public commenter who was left stunned by the prior comments, “Wow, I guess I will just take a moment to reel in disgust after that previous comment.”

Councilmember Scott Robbins also appeared by Zoom and provided comment as a member of the public, “This past week I buried my father.”

He stated, “After going through things that he left behind, I found his original bar mitzvah materials,” listing the scroll his father read from and photos from the forties.

“This is the faith of my family.” He emphasized these antisemitic views are not remote to the city, “They are a problem that exists here.” Robbins provided an example of when he was described on Facebook with an antisemitic trope.

The councilmember was considered absent from the meeting, although he said not by choice. Brown Act rule applications to his situation kept him from attending virtually in his official capacity.

He said he wasn’t planning on commenting, but after the antisemitic comments, he said it isn’t something they can dismiss as existing only outside the community, “Those comments have no place here,” adding, “antisemitism has no place here, and that hate against all kinds, against all peoples, has no place here.”

His statement resembled a proclamation made at the Nov. 21 council meeting recognizing “Hate Has No Place in South Lake Tahoe.”

The proclamation was made in response antisemitic hate speech made over Zoom at a September El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting. The city reports this is the first Zoom bomb occurrence at a City Council meeting.

Other councilmembers voiced their opposition to the hate speech, including Mayor Pro Tem John Friedrich who said, “Our Jewish friends in South Lake Tahoe are the best of us.”

Mayor Cody Bass addressed Levi’s speech, “We absolutely do not condone hate speech,” he said, “it’s just unfortunate that anybody has that kind of energy.”

Bass adjourned the meeting after council business, but not before he committed himself to doing all they can to stand against hate.