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By JW August, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
Photo: Courtesy of City of La Mesa
February 16, 2024 (La Mesa) -- What began as a typical La Mesa City Council meeting this week to weigh local issues morphed into an antisemitic diatribe by largely anonymous white-supremacist callers.
Words turned ugly during the council’s public comment period on Tuesday when a series of callers, each held to a council-mandated three-minute limit per speaker, used their allotted time to debase and degrade Jews with callous accusations and conspiracy theories.

Caller “Julie,” no last name given, began by telling the council, mayor and city attorney that everyone should know “Jews suck the blood out from male babies like a vicious vampire.”
The ongoing war in Gaza was mentioned in passing, but the callers’ vitriol was focused elsewhere.
At one point, the commentary became so inflammatory that it provoked one council member to get up from the dais and leave the room.
Throughout the comment period it was never clear where the speakers were calling from or if their three-minute statements were live or pre-recorded. 
Similar calls disrupted a meeting of the Laguna Beach City Council in Orange County on Tuesday.
Julie told the council there was a conspiracy involving “lots of groups” who “advocate for Jewish supremacy and wish to cause harm to those who call them out.” She claimed the first five books of the Bible promote the idea that “the non-Jew is consequently an animal in human form and condemned to serve the Jew day and night.”
In the audience listening was Dasmine McFarlin, a senior at Helix High. She’s active in environmental issues, a member of her city’s Environmental Sustainability Commission, and was excited about having three minutes  to urge the council to support an ordinance to ban single-use plastic.
But she never got to speak.
Instead, she said she was subjected to what she called “blatantly ignorant people” spouting antisemitic lies and using vulgar language, which wasted everyone’s time.
McFarlin said she noticed that the council members appeared “helpless and uncomfortable” as the comments continued.  She said she finally had to leave before the plastic ordinance was discussed and passed, 3 1/2 hours after she first arrived at the meeting.
Another call — from a man identifying himself as Tim Atkinson — praised the council for protecting his First Amendment rights and “not cutting him and others off like he said some city councils like to do.” He then condemned Israel for “terrorist actions against the Palestinian people.”
Atkins claimed he could prove that Blacks and whites “are both being played off against each other and our misfortunes are at the hands of the vile Jews.”  
La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis at one point interrupted the speakers who were calling in so that he could ask City Attorney Glenn Sabine to comment on what was going on.
Sabine responded that “We may not like comments or particular groups, or individuals but it has to be tolerated.” Sabine said that the council “doesn’t endorse necessarily any of the comments made. I think I can speak on behalf of all of them.”  
He ended by advising that “the audience should not take or make a wrong impression of what’s going on here by the council sitting here and taking no action. It’s just part of what they have to do to comply with the Constitution.”
The calls then resumed, with one individual identifying himself as “a journalist that covers hate and extremism” who noted, “The council is powerless in international conflict, you know that, at best, all they could do is draft a resolution and that really accomplishes nothing. But I’d like to read a list of people who do have power.” He then spent the rest of his time naming Jewish leaders in government until he was cut off at the three-minute mark.
Another speaker, who identified himself as Johnny Rebel, said the term “antisemitism as it’s being used in this country now” is used to shut down free speech.  A true dialogue, he said, is needed “with the situation in Israel and  Palestine where the Jews are committing genocide” and in Ukraine where he accused Jews of funding the war.
Near the end of the public comment period, a speaker identified himself as Bill Shaner who said he lived “down this way.” He claimed the Holocaust never happened, and criticized the U.S. and Britain for bombing Nazi Germany where supposedly lived “one of the most virtuous enlightened peoples to have ever been known in our modern times.”
Councilmember Colin Parent angrily left  during the comments, later posting on “X” that he was personally offended when “anonymous individuals used our live public commenting system to spew vile antisemitic hatred.”  He noted that he had already “begun discussions with our city attorney about our options that reflect both our constitutional obligations, and our values as an inclusive community.”

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Hang up on these callers, you do not need to allow them to abuse everyone in the City of La Mesa, that is not free speech.