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‘Goyim Defense League’ (GDL) Crashes Another California City Council Meeting

Emeryville was the latest city to experience online hate speech during a public meeting often referred to as “Zoom Bombing.”

The March 5th City Council meeting was disrupted by several speakers over the span of 10 minutes who used the open public comment period to spew jewish conspiracy theories, anti-trans comments and racism.

Emeryville joins a growing list of Bay Area Cities that have been targets of these apparently coordinated attacks including Walnut CreekEl Cerrito and San Jose among many others.

Remote or “virtual” meetings have increased the ease of participation and by all metrics, they’ve been a boost to civic participation allowing busy parents and disabled residents to participate in important conversations. But virtual meetings have also increased the anonymity and ability of those outside the community to disrupt meetings by espousing extremist views. Many local governments are struggling to strike a balance between access and discouraging hateful speech.

The first speaker at Tuesday’s Emeryville City Council meeting who identified himself as “Bill Schehner” (likely a pseudonym) initially sounded like he might be protesting the conflict in Gaza and pleading for a ceasefire which has become common. “I would like to ask the city council to please put forth a resolution disavowing any support for the terroristic nation of Israel, which is an illegitimate state stolen from Palestinian land in 1947.”

The rhetoric escalated with the second speaker who began citing Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic religious passages. Councilmember John Bauters, likely sensing that this was a coordinated effort, can be seen whispering to Emeryville Mayor Courtney Welch before leaving the dais.

The third speaker, a woman who identified herself as “Ursula,” began her public comment decrying trans women’s participation in Women’s History month. Following the use of a homophobic slur, Emeryville Mayor Courtney Welch requested that the city clerk remove the speaker. The speaker then unleashed a vile and racist rant directed at Welch prior to being cut off. The fourth speaker spewed similar Anti-Semitic and conspiracy-laden language.

Welch then issued a warning reading from the city’s policies on abusive language. ”I just want to note for any public speakers moving forward, the city council welcomes comments including criticism about the policies, procedures, programs or services of the city or acts of, or the emissions of the city council. Speakers shall not use threatening, profane or abusive language which disrupts, disturbs or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of a city council successor agency, management of Emeryville Services Authority or related meeting,” Welch went on to say. “Statements or conduct that is hostile, intimidating, oppressive or abusive is per se disruptive to a meeting and will not be tolerated. I hope everyone online heard that. You will be removed if you violate that policy.”

The fifth and final speaker immediately dove into an abusive and hate-filled diatribe.

In response to these coordinated hate speech attacks and their inability to control them, many cities have moved to eliminate remote meeting participation including Concord, San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Sonoma County, Redwood City and Fremont.

The elimination of remote comment hasn’t completely eliminated this form of hate speech. After Walnut Creek eliminated virtual public comment, some speakers have brazenly attended in-person meetings to express their extremist views.

The Jewish advocacy group StopAntisemitism has been tracking the activities of those responsible – the Goyim Defense League’ or ‘GDL’ for over five years and state they vilify Jews with their premeditated hate campaigns.

Hate Speech has no single, objective definition but is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.”