A large group of Sacramento Jewish leaders held a news conference outside City Hall Tuesday to reject antisemitic and racist comments made by a man at council meetings in recent weeks.
“This message, wherever and whenever it is allowed to fester and grow, only has one trajectory toward hatred, violence and finally death,” said Barry Broad, president of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, during the news conference Tuesday outside City Hall. “A generation of Americans fought and died to eradicate it from the Earth. But it is back. What can we do? We need to stand up and say loudly and clearly, together in one voice — no not in our town. Not in Sacramento. Not in America. Not anywhere, ever again. And we need to keep saying it until the evil is drowned out by the good.”
In addition to the federation, the news conference included leaders form the Jewish Community Relations Council; Sacramento Board of Rabbis; the Sacramento LGBT Community Center; the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento; Sacramento Area Congregations Together; the Sacramento Central Labor Council and NAACP Sacramento.
Council members Lisa Kaplan, who is Jewish, as well as Katie Valenzuela and Caity Maple were also present at the news conference. Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who is also Jewish, was leading a council committee meeting inside the chambers at the same time.
After the news conference, council members hung black and white posters in front of their computers that read, “Love Not Hate.” Valenzuela worked with local artist Xico Gonzalez to have the signs designed and printed, she said.
Steinberg encouraged people to have a different approach this time to Ryan Messano of Solano County, the person who has repeated antisemitic tropes. Previously, people blocked Messano from speaking and the meeting was paused.
“If there is hate speech spoken in this chamber, tonight or any night hold up these beautiful signs,” Steinberg said at the start of the meeting, holding up one of the signs. “Love not hate. Stand silently and we will stand silently with you. Our silence and our message will be much more powerful than our hate. Disrupting the meeting is exactly what they want. Please do not give it to them.”
Council rules state that as long as no rules are broken, each member of the public gets two minutes to speak. Rules include that speakers must not call out individual council members by name, and cannot say any swear words. It does not restrict hate speech. The city has previously banned a man from council chambers, but due to threatening comments.
Messano did not show up to the meeting in person to give comments Tuesday, but he did call in. The city gave him two minutes to speak, while all members of the council stood and held their signs, with the exception of Councilman Sean Loloee who had left the room. Activists stood at the podium and held a banner that read “NEVER AGAIN,” while yelling over Messano’s comments.
“Some members of the council said last week that you were unsafe,” Messano said, referring to what happened the previous week. “None of us five who attended had anything dangerous. You knew that because there were metal detectors in front of the City Council. Yet you ended the meeting early…if you cannot handle criticism, resign.”
Jeffrey Erik Perrine, previously identified by The Sacramento Bee as a member of the far-right group the Proud Boys, also called in to the council meeting, prior to Messano, with disparaging comments about the homeless.
“These people are unhinged irresponsible people,” Perrine said.
During his comments, the council members all stood and held up their signs. Loloee sat and held his.
Messano posted on his website in response to the news conference: “Let me be very clear, I am not associated with Proud Boys, I am not a Nazi, I do not support any authoritarian government, and I support the rights of all people, races, and all religions. I have been viciously lied about, slandered, and libeled by the Jewish media.”
It was a very different scene on Tuesday from last week, when Messano signed up to speak but as he approached the podium, a group of activists blocked him from speaking. Steinberg had left the room, and Vice Mayor Eric Guerra paused the meeting for about an hour. During that time, Perrine’s group clashed with a group of activists, including advocates against police brutality, who tried to get them to leave City Hall.
The people were blocking Messano from speaking due to his comments earlier this month.
“Any white person in America is open game, but you’re not allowed to criticize non-whites and you’re not allowed to criticize other groups,” Messano told the council May 9.
He doubled down at the May 15 meeting with antisemitic comments.
“Antisemitism used to mean someone who hates all Jews, now it means someone who is hated by Jew bankers,” Messano told the council May 15.
Immediately following that remark, Steinberg, who is Jewish, yelled, “See ya later pal ... we don’t want to hear any more from you.”