People concerned about alt right stickers popping up in public places asked city leaders Tuesday to make a statement denouncing bigotry.
“I’m here to ask for your support to pass this resolution, to say to the people of Turlock, to say to these white supremacists, `We will not take this, not in our town, not in our city, not in Turlock,’” Danielle Ray-Reyes told City Council members.
The proposed resolution would “push back the riding tide of bullying, harassment, racism and hate crimes” and is nearly identical to one presented three weeks ago in Oakdale. That’s the adopted home town of Nathan Damigo, a white nationalist leader who helped organize the Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a counter protester was killed.
Damigo, 31, is a former Marine and ex-convict who studies social science at Stanislaus State University in northeast Turlock, near the neighborhoods where someone blanketed walls and public signs with alt right stickers, some of which are identical to those Damigo sells on his personal website.
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Several people in Tuesday’s audience wore white t-shirts proclaiming “Be the Change.” Some belong to a neighborhood watch group that took down about 200 stickers; Ray-Reyes and her husband removed another 30, including one showing a picture of a white child with the caption “Equality is a false god,” posted on a stop sign in front of their toddlers’ preschool, she said; it’s not among those on Damigo’s website.
Ray-Reyes compared posting alt right stickers to a urinating dog marking its turf.
“This creates an atmosphere of fear and intimidation and I will not stand for that,” said Turlock resident Denise Hunt. She was among eight others who also spoke passionately against racism, which Stan State student Laura Machado called “our country’s cardinal sin.”
“We need to be better than our history,” Machado said.
Anthony Castillo said, “We have an immediate threat; they’re trying to seduce confused and lost young men and twist them into becoming violent people.”
All rose from the audience to speak during a portion of the City Council meeting reserved for public comment on items not appearing on the posted agenda. As such, any council vote would come in the future. Some asked that police do more to investigate, as posting stickers on public signs is illegal.
Council members are not required to respond immediately, but the mayor and vice-mayor did, in terms suggesting that Turlock is more receptive than was Oakdale’s council.
Oakdale leaders last week adopted a resolution with general support for inclusion and civility. It had been significantly watered down from proposed wording, with language removed referring to hate acts against LGBTQ and Jewish people. But two Oakdale council members declined to support it, saying a resolution isn’t necessary because hate crimes already are illegal and people should not be told what to believe.
Turlock’s proposal is expected to return for possible action in coming weeks, perhaps as soon as Sept. 26.
“I absolutely agree that Turlock is better than this,” said Mayor Gary Soiseth, joining the meeting via telephone. “ He said he will work with those requesting the resolution and staff to “take a stand against bigotry and intimidation,” and Vice-Mayor Bill DeHart Jr. promised to “take this very seriously.”
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390