Stir the pot too much, and you can end up with a grease fire.
When Stanislaus County supervisor and Republican Party official Jim DeMartini decided to pay a Twitter-trolling bigot to entertain the central committees of three counties at their Lincoln Day Dinner back in April, he was vigorously stirring a volatile pot.
Now DeMartini wants no part of the public safety costs – some $68,460 – that Modesto incurred during Ann Coulter’s brief visit.
You can’t blame Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll for spending the money. After a few protests of events elsewhere with similarly antagonistic speakers turned violent, Modesto police had no choice but to prepare for the worst – keeping Stanislaus and San Joaquin deputies and Stockton police officers in reserve but out of sight.
We again applaud our community for being mostly agreeable in disagreeing with each other, meaning those officers weren’t needed. Still, they had to be paid.
During Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting, community activist Emerson Drake presented DeMartini with an invoice for those costs. Interesting stunt, but just that.
We strongly support the Republicans Party’s right to invite whomever its wants to dinner, just as others have a right to protest. As long as Republicans provide security within their venue – as they did – the party is not responsible for keeping peace on city sidewalks.
Insisting Republicans – or anyone else – pay such costs would make it improbable that anyone would bring any controversial figures to MJC, the Gallo Center, a night club or Stanislaus State. The “chilling” effect would be real.
And you can’t compare the fundraiser to the former X-Fest, for which promoter Chris Ricci was required to pay all security costs. Only 600 Republicans (and one editorial writer) were in the Centre Plaza ballroom for a couple of hours. X-Fest cordoned off 15 city blocks so 15,000 music fans could drink beer and listen to music in mid-August. Entirely different situations.
But this doesn’t let DeMartini and his party off the ethical hook. After all, every Modesto resident now will pay a portion of that $68,450. Residents should keep in mind exactly who was willing to let them pick up the tab so they could be entertained by a demagogue.
Ann Coulter’s brand is hate; her tools are vitriol, bigotry and incendiary language. Her book “Adios America” demonizes Mexican immigrants as incestuous and having a “rape culture.” When she tweets the term “f****ing Jews” she sounds like a neo-Nazi. When her only regret concerning Timothy McVeigh – the Oklahoma City bomber who killed 168, including 19 pre-schoolers – was that he hadn’t targeted the New York Times, she sounds like a sociopath.
Republican leaders knew controversial speakers had sparked violent protests in Berkeley and Colorado. They knew UC Berkeley had dis-invited her. That’s why Republicans spent $8,000 on security for the ballroom. They had to know that local law enforcement would arrange for backup.
So please, Supervisor DeMartini, stop whining about “fake news” and saying the city’s security costs are The Bee’s fault; we didn’t invite Coulter to Modesto.
Stop insisting no one reads The Bee then blaming us for the crowd that appeared.
You can’t lead a choruses of boos from the dais and not expect people to boo you for hosting a lightning rod like Coulter.
The people of Modesto are stuck with this bill. Despite our dislike of Coulter, it’s a price we are willing to pay to live in a city where everyone can speak and law enforcement takes its responsibilities for our safety seriously.
But we won’t forget who started this grease fire.