The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an anti-hate resolution denouncing “bigoted and racist hate speech” during today’s meeting.
The resolution, and an attached letter signed by over 60 elected officials and local leaders, call out a “vicious” message that was recently sent to county supervisors containing “hate speech that threatened the lives of [LGBTQ+] and Black communities in Humboldt County.” The letter underscores the county’s commitment to “foster a safe, equitable environment for all community members to live and thrive.”
The hate-filled message originally appeared on an online petition calling to “End Drag Events for Kids in Humboldt County, CA” that was created by local website Lost Coast Populist. The message was written by one of the petition’s signatories – someone using the name “William” – and subsequently sent to each of the county supervisors, among others.
“[There] was very repulsive language that was being used [in the message],” County Administrative Officer Elishia Hayes said during today’s discussion. “Accordingly, staff has been working very diligently over the last week to determine what the best approach and response was to that language, recognizing that it’s been circulating through our community and that it is hurtful, not only to our community members but also to our staff.”
But it turns out the message was a false flag.
As detailed in a recent post by the Outpost’s Ryan Burns, “William” offered an apology to the community in a follow-up message posted to the petition. The internet troll admitted to writing the vile message as a way to “get both sides to start a conversation about avoiding violence,” adding that he assumed it would be deleted right away.
Fourth District Supervisor Natalie Arroyo acknowledged that “the statement itself was maybe a nothing burger,” but emphasized the need to take threatening comments seriously.
“I mean, any time there’s any kind of threat of violence at a school they lock down the whole school,” Arroyo said. “We have to take these things pretty darn seriously. … I don’t think the point is whether or not this was a real threat; the point is that there are many people in our community who experience hate speech, who are vulnerable and being targeted. Frankly, all of us here on the board live with a lot of relative privilege and there are a lot of folks in our community who don’t. I see this as the very least we can do to stand up for our values and to make them explicit and clear.”
Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson asked for staff’s perspective on responding to threats made by potential trolls and whether it is appropriate to “giv[e] air to something that maybe doesn’t deserve it.”
Dr. Jeremy Clark, the diversity, equity, and inclusion manager for the Department of Human Resources, said staff had considered the possibility of ignoring the message but ultimately felt it was an opportunity to “double down” on the county’s stance against hate speech.
“I think that we came to the conclusion that these words hurt,” he explained. “Whether they were written with the intent to troll or whether they were written to elicit some sort of reaction. … When really faced with that dichotomy [of] sort of erring on the side of caution and condemning such repugnant language or … not giving it any air, [we decided] that we would err on the side of staff any day of the week.”
Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell emphasized that the message in question had “instilled fear” in the community. “It’s not right to have to live in fear no matter what you choose in your life,” she said.
First District Supervisor Rex Bohn made a motion to accept the resolution, which was seconded by Bushnell.
A few members of the public called in to defend the Lost Coast Populist’s petition, including the website’s creator Donnie Creekmore, who condemned the “revolting, threatening and hateful” message that was sent to the board. He added that he has “provided all of the data that we have” to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
“That being said, your resolution no longer has a real threat to point towards,” he said.
Reverend Tyrell Bramwell, the contentious leader of St. Mark’s Church in Ferndale, called the resolution “dangerous” and said the county’s actions “are stirring up hate.”
“You encourage people in our county to disdain the church and you’re driving a wedge between people,” he said. “I know you’re not intending to do that, but that is what’s happening. … Please be aware that your motions and your vote can have consequences for the city leaders in Ferndale and for the Christians in Ferndale who are being hated by LGBTQ activists and using your actions as precedent for affirmation of their actions.”
Jim Glover, chair of the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission, spoke in favor of the resolution and said it “speaks to what kind of county we want to have.”
“I’m also here as an individual who’s part of … one of those vulnerable groups in our community and it’s important to me to make sure that people younger than myself don’t have to be raised in a community where they are fearful, no matter what their persuasions are, or whatever their physical situation or mental situation,” Glover said. “I want to compliment the board for considering this motion and this resolution. I thought the wording was excellent and I would support it any day of the week.”
Following public comment, Bushnell addressed Bramwell’s assertion that the resolution excluded religious communities. “In part of this resolution, it says there has been an increase in discrimination, hateful, derogatory language and acts of hate towards … lots of things, including religious communities,” she said. “I think it’s very inclusive of all; it’s not just inclusive of one.”
Bohn agreed with Bushnell, noting that the “statement is general; it’s common sense.”
“We need to address this and … this isn’t about going after anybody’s petition [or] anybody’s feelings,” he said. “There are going to be contrasting opinions. … So, I appreciate this resolution because it moves what everybody should feel in a roundabout way. … And I think as we move forward we can all do better.”
The board approved the item in a unanimous 5-0 vote.
Shortly after the board’s decision, California Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire and Assemblymember Jim Wood released the following joint statement support of the resolution:
At a time when hate speech and hate crimes have hit historic highs across the nation, here at home on the North Coast we must stop it in its tracks and take a unified no tolerance approach. We applaud the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, Tribal and community leaders for standing up and condemning the horrific rhetoric and extremism that’s become all too common in our polarized society. We stand ready to assist the county with any and all state resources to keep those neighbors who may be targeted safe and ensure we can stop future incidents of this type of devastating and vile hate.
Check back at the Outpost tomorrow for more coverage of today’s Board of Supervisors meeting.