When 100 or more supporters of President Donald Trump clashed with Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist demonstrators last weekend in Pacific Beach, San Diego police declared the anti-Trump counter protest an illegal assembly. They were told to disperse or face arrest.
Supporters cheering the president were permitted to march.
Racial-equity advocates across the San Diego area said that decision was another example of uneven treatment they have received from police and other city officials for years.
San Diego police defended their decision.
“The goal of the department was to maintain peace regardless of ideology and belief,” spokesman Lt. Shawn Takeuchi said.
A few days later, the activists said, the bias they experienced on Jan. 9 was exacerbated when they were shut out of a public meeting of the San Diego City Council on Tuesday.
Activists who signed up to address their elected officials during the public comment portion of the online meeting were not allowed to speak, because city officials cut off discussion after the initial eight speakers complained about the law enforcement practices.
“They said that was it, they were not going to hear any more comments about the police,” said Darwin Fishman, a professor of African-American Studies and co-founder of the Racial Justice Coalition who was among those prevented from speaking.
“This was on the instruction of the new council president,” he said.
Jennifer Campbell, who last month was narrowly elected council president over Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe, issued a statement explaining her decision.
“A difficult part of the council president’s role is balancing the opportunities for non-agenda public comment while also running a meeting that is respectful of my colleagues’ time and our meeting agenda,” she said.
“The municipal code allows for non-agenda public comment to be limited to 16 minutes per single issue (eight speakers at two minutes each), which ensures that we can hear from the community and also focus on the agenda for the day,” she added.
Fishman was unconvinced.
“Obviously, given how that went before the City Council, and that thousands of us were supporting Monica (for council president), it makes us very skeptical,” he said. “We are really starting off on the wrong foot.”
Activist Tasha Williamson likened the San Diego police decision to halt the anti-Trump demonstrators to what happened in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when thousands of Trump supporters were permitted to enter the Capitol building and threaten federal lawmakers who were in the process of certifying the November election results.
“Black lives don’t matter, and White lives are protected,” Williamson said. “We saw the same thing in San Diego that we saw in Washington D.C.”
Five people died in the Capital building attack, including Ocean Beach resident Ashli Babbitt and a U.S. Capitol police officer. The violence led the House of Representatives to impeach Trump a second time.
An attorney representing the San Diego activists who were not permitted to speak during the council meeting said Campbell’s actions last week were not legal.
“It appears you censored these speakers due to their message, as well as doing so for your own convenience and lack of desire to do your job for the taxpayers of this city, who pay your salary,” lawyer Brian Pease wrote to Campbell.
Pease requested a formal notification that the practice will be discontinued, or he said he will go to court. Campbell did not immediately respond to questions about whether she would stop limiting the number of speakers during public comment periods.
Published at Sat, 16 Jan 2021 01:30:21 +0000