Stanislaus County leaders are being asked to approve a proclamation against bigotry, hate-based violence and discrimination.
In a continuing reaction to shock columnist Ann Coulter’s talk in Modesto next week – and what some see as a rising tide of racial tensions – speakers urged county supervisors Tuesday evening to take a stand against an increase in bullying, harassment and hate crimes in the nation.
Dale Butler, who was an equal rights officer for county government, wrote a proclamation that he said would serve as a leadership statement for the county. It recognizes that “people in communities across the nation have stood up and successfully opposed racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic bigotry and hate acts committed against their neighbors.”
Noting that people often feel “isolated, without hope, and helpless to do anything individually to end hate violence,” Butler’s proclamation would declare that no one in the county will be “discriminated against because of race, faith, ethnicity, national origin, legal status, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or any other real or perceived difference.“
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Butler is a well-regarded county retiree who devoted 28 years with county government working on equal rights issues. His name is on an award that the county gives each year to recognize achievements in furthering the county’s equal rights program goals.
His proclamation signals that, for members of the Latino community, all is not well with ethnic relations in the county.
At the March 14 board meeting, more than 20 people told the county’s five Republican supervisors they were insulted that Coulter was booked as the speaker for the Republican Central Committee’s Lincoln Day Dinner set for April 28.
In particular, they were outraged by Coulter’s written claims that child rape is widely accepted in Latino culture. The protestors charged that the county’s GOP leaders were sowing division by booking a bigoted speaker in a county with a large Latino population.
John Mataka of Grayson told supervisors Tuesday that a peaceful protest will be held outside the Republican event next week. Former Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueño said a unity and peace dinner will be held simultaneously April 28 at the Seasons Multicultural Event Center on McHenry Avenue in Modesto.
Madueño said she believes it’s become more common to witness racial hatred in the local community. Some believe tensions are running high in the Central Valley because of President Donald Trump’s promises to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Coulter is an outspoken supporter of Trump and is promoting her book “In Trump We Trust.”
Tuesday, county supervisors could not legally take action on Butler’s request because it came during a public comment period. Butler said he’s asking county officials to put the proclamation on a meeting agenda for the board to consider.
Board Chairman Vito Chiesa said the chief executive’s office will consider whether to put it on a future agenda. Typically, a proclamation would need to be vetted and it will take longer than a couple of weeks, Chiesa said.
County CEO Stan Risen said Wednesday he will ask supervisors individually before deciding if the proclamation is scheduled for a meeting. Risen said the proclamation may be redundant with an equal opportunity nondiscrimination statement the board approves every year.
With the exception of Supervisor Jim DeMartini, county board members are not involved with planning the Lincoln Day Dinner. County supervisor is a nonpartisan elective office.
DeMartini, who is chairman of the Republican Central Committee, has defended the decision to hire Coulter.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Vito Chiesa said he’s not attending the Lincoln dinner but is helping a friend move April 28. Coulter’s speaking engagement in Modesto “appears to be very offensive to them,” Chiesa said. “It is a free-speech situation. As long as she is not crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, it is nothing illegal.”
Relations have recently soured between leaders of the county and the Latino community. County and city officials have routinely attended Latino Community Roundtable meetings, but Withrow and DeMartini walked out of last month’s annual Cesar Chavez Unity Luncheon when Madueño referred to the upcoming Coulter visit and addressed comments to Withrow.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16