OP-ED | ‘We’ve Decided to Meet Bigotry with Bigotry’

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | The South Pasadenan News
By Chris Bray 
South Pasadena is a model community: diverse, tolerant, open. But none of that is a given. We have to fight for it, and we have to say what we mean and what we hope for. At the moment, it appears that “tolerance” is being taken to mean that we’re gonna have ourselves a good ol’ fashioned witch hunt and get down to purging some folks. We’ve decided to meet bigotry with bigotry.
Hate and intolerance is sweeping through South Pasadena, rising on a wave of hysteria, and it’s time to take notice. At the council meeting this week, a public comment calmly identified the City of South Pasadena as a white supremacist banana republic that sent its death squads out to murder Vanessa Marquez. Where does that kind of story lead?
At the same meeting this week, a petition submitted to the city council demanded that the city investigate the religious faith and political associations of the city’s police officers. Making his intent clear, petition creator William Kelley submitted a public comment to the council that said this:
Recent events involving the South Pasadena Police Department — including a planned prayer service at city hall by an ultra-conservative religious group, as well as the apparent release without citation or charge of a driver who has posted hateful memes on social media and abruptly drove his truck up onto the sidewalk where Black Lives matter supporters were demonstrating this past Saturday — must be fully investigated by City Council. City policy prohibits using staff time and city resources to engage
Kelley explicitly demands that the South Pasadena City Council serve as the town’s thought police. Though he transitions to “staff time and city resources,” his objection is not merely an objection to the government sponsorship of religion; rather, his content-specific warning is that religious conservatives may have been treated as welcome by city employees, and he laments that Richard Cheney hasn’t been arrested despite the fact that he posts “hateful memes on social media.” We are invited to engage in woke Comstockery, policing the boundaries of cultural expression. A petition laid before the South Pasadena City Council proposes to conduct an inquisition to determine whether or not South Pasadena police officers have been consorting with known Catholics. If you’re comfortable with a demand that a city investigate the religious faith of government employees, you have found the forces of intolerance. They live in your house.
Second, take a moment to watch the video of our police trying to investigate Richard Cheney’s idiotic confrontation with BLM protesters over the weekend, while people shout abuse – “race traitor!” – at black and Latina cops:


Nothing shows a commitment to tolerance like demeaning people of color in the street.
In three recent confrontations involving protesters, police have arrested Joe Richcreek, arrested Michael Plough, and sustained a thorough (and ongoing) investigation into Richard Cheney’s idiocy. In response, Fahren James screams at police that they have “done nothing” about attacks on protesters, and London Lang stirs up followers on social media to try to take a baby from his parents:
Let’s prove that we’re a tolerant community — let’s get that infant ripped out of his mother’s arms and thrown into foster care.
Now we’ve transitioned into the phase in which people announce on social media that they can decide who is allowed to live in South Pasadena, with public calls for purges and expulsions:
Richard Cheney made an obnoxious and aggressive choice. No one has the authority to exile him. People who fantasize about doing so are dangerous people.
Demands that the government investigate religious faith. Demands that children be taken from parents of political enemies. Demands for purges of people who engage in thoughtcrime. Vile public degradation of black and Latina police officers. We’re living through a moral panic, and one that reminds me more and more often of the McMartin pre-school hysteria. It is intensifying, and will continue to intensify, and will drag more and more people down. This week, South Pasadena is a white supremacist banana republic. Where does that go? What’s the trajectory? What does our community look like after six more months of this hate and rage and open lust for ideological purges and inquisitions?
You say you’re tolerant. What do you mean?

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  1. I welcome debate, but not mischaracterization and conflation of things which need to be distinguished. The petition clearly referred to looking into activities of officers and city employees while on the clock, in uniform, using city resources, like computers and servers, and while on city property related to politics and religion. As many know, city policy rightfully prevents using city resources for such activities. At the federal level, federal employees are prevented from being involved in electoral politics, even on their own time, under the Hatch Act. I concur with the Hatch Act. In the U.S., there has been a long tradition of the separation of church and state. I was raised a Catholic and don’t have a problem with that separation. To represent a review of such activity while on the clock using city resources as a witch hunt is indeed little more than misrepresentation and hyped up rhetoric appealing to the very emotionalism you condemn rather than to reason. However, it’s the kind of reasonable oversight the city council should routinely provide, whether it’s over the Finance Department, the police force, Public Works on sewers and water, or any other department or city program. It’s precisely the lack of such oversight and transparency that’s created mounting problems at city hall and you have complained about in the past, from the financial problems to the liabilities resulting from bad decisions that have been hidden from the public. Chris Bray, you’ve been a champion of such oversight, but apparently only on selected matters rather than on a consistent basis. The reality is, though, that no city department or employee should be above having to abide by rules, laws, and standards while on the payroll. When city employees are off duty, they can freely practice the religion and politics of their choice like every other person in the U.S. That is their right and nobody I know expects it would be otherwise. In that we’re all Americans, don’t you agree Chris?

  2. I appreciate very much what Chris articulates here. There is a danger in meeting fury with fury. It can feel justified, but excess in any form never seems to serve us in the long run. This town, anchored by public schools, is a treasure. If you really think it is a bastion of white supremacy and intolerance, at least give equal air time to the opposite…look for all the evidence that it is an open and tolerant town that is trying to be better. When you do that, there’s a greater chance that you will be part of making it true. Isn’t that unquestionably better? Please. We gotta take down the temperature….