(BCN) — The cities of Concord and San Ramon are joining Walnut Creek, Sonoma County, Redwood City and Fremont is halting remote public comment at public meetings, mostly due to antisemitic callers.vBoth cities have council meetings Tuesday night, at which people who want to make comments to the council must do so in person.
Concord will only allow Zoom and phone calls for city officials under “Just cause or emergency circumstances” who can’t be present at meetings, according to the meeting agenda. California’s Brown Act, which governs the rules of public meetings in the state, requires municipalities to allow people to comment in person.
The pandemic forced cities to expand the rules, something many municipalities kept in place meetings were reopened for in-person participation.
“It is not just the antisemitic (callers) but they are also expanding into LGBT and white supremacy,” Concord City Councilmember Edi Birsan said on Sunday. “It is a matter of appropriateness to the arena of a city council and the disruption of it. The name of our city is Concord, not Discord.”
Walnut Creek announced Tuesday it would stop taking remarks remotely via phone and Zoom on Tuesday after months of harassment by antisemitic callers, frequently targeting City Councilmember Kevin Wilk, who is Jewish.
Wilk said it’s a strategy of far-right, white nationalist groups like White Lives Matters California, who use locally broadcast public forums to broadcast their messages. Wilk has often been mentioned by name by callers, who Wilk said typically use pseudonyms like “Eddie from Walnut Creek” and don’t show their faces over Zoom.
“It’s sad really,” Wilk said last week. “A valuable tool of communicating with local government has been forced to be taken away due to hate speech hijacking it.”
The strategy has been used in other municipalities, including San Jose, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Concord and Walnut Creek have been among Bay Area communities targeted with racist flyers since Sept. 2022.
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