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Antisemitic Speech Takes Over a Virtual California City Hall Meeting

Ventura Mayor Joe Schroeder denounced hate speech Friday after speakers made antisemitic and racist remarks via video conferencing at a City Council meeting earlier in the week.

Four speakers who appeared to give false names made the remarks during the public comment period at the end of the Sept. 25 meeting.

“Hate speech has no place in our city,” Schroeder said in Friday’s statement. “…This event was deeply troubling, and witnessing such vulgar behavior saddens me.”

Similar activity has been reported during public meetings of city councils, county supervisors and school boards elsewhere in the state, according to the municipal news and job site CaliforniaCityNews.org.

At the Ventura meeting, a person who provided the name June but whose gender was uncertain described themself as “not antisemitic in general,” then went on to say, “but there is a problem with the Jews owning too much of the landscape.”

Another speaker, who provided the name Judy S and used profanity while commenting, said the city has been following county ordinances influenced by the Anti-Defamation League ā€” a longstanding organization that fights antisemitism ā€” and other groups “that tell you that you need to even the playing field.” The speaker said that keeps opportunities away from “hard-working white people” and also made disparaging remarks about Mexicans and Jews.

Ventura City Council meetings are hosted in a hybrid setting of virtual and in-person participation, said Michael MacDonald, Ventura city clerk. The city uses Webex, which is similar to Zoom, to host the virtual portion.

Virtual participants can join through a link posted on the agenda. The city clerk’s office manages virtual public comments using a chat feature.

Speakers identify themselves and say what item they would like to speak on but are not required to use their full names, MacDonald said.

While four speakers made comments, there were 15 names within the same group of people. MacDonald said he anticipated the comments because he’d heard about other California cities hit with antisemitic and racist messages.

Names online participants used to join the meeting had signaled those intentions, MacDonald said. One person, for example, called themself George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. Other names related to the Holocaust, Nazis or racist terms.

“They were saying really horrible and vile things in the chat throughout the meeting,” MacDonald said. “The first comment was the Holocaust did not happen but should have. That’s how the chat started.”

MacDonald said he wrote in the chat to refrain from making such comments.

During the meeting, City Attorney Andy Heglund interrupted each of the four speakers to get them to stay on topic.

Schroeder, in his mayoral statement, said racist behavior will not be tolerated in Ventura.

“I ask my colleagues on the City Council and all Ventura community members to join me in solidarity with our Jewish community members,” he said. “Let us reaffirm our unwavering commitment to condemn racism and white supremacy and to reject hate, discrimination, harassment, violence, racism, and xenophobia.”

At the meeting, Councilmember Bill McReynolds spoke out against the remarks after the last speaker.

“As the proud son of an immigrant mother and Jewish grandparents, Iā€™m very proud of my service here,” McReynolds said. “I want to thank everyone for being here and supporting against what we heard tonight.”

Despite the incident, the city will not change how people sign up for virtual comments, MacDonald said.

Source: https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2023/10/01/antisemitic-racist-remarks-sour-ventura-city-council-meeting/71006335007/