Tensions run high for short time outside Ann Coulter appearance in Modesto
Emerson Drake, a frequent speaker at public meetings, delivered a bill for services Tuesday to Republican Central Committee chairman Jim DeMartini, who serves on Stanislaus County’s board of supervisors.
The Modesto resident said the Republican Central Committee of Stanislaus should reimburse Modesto and its residents for $68,461 in police services, which were deployed to control protests April 28 outside Modesto Centre Plaza, where shock columnist Ann Coulter spoke at a fund-raising dinner.
Speaking to supervisors during the public comment period, Drake presented an “invoice” that said $48,273 was owed for Modesto police services that were beefed up for the event. The invoice also sought $16,678 in reimbursements for Stockton police services, plus $3,510 for equipment and food supplied to officers.
Drake charged that the Republican group used a polarizing speaker to boost ticket sales for its Lincoln Day Dinner and, in doing so, created a large taxpayer expense for peace officers to control the resulting demonstration. Drake pointed out that a promoter of music concerts in downtown Modesto is charged for police services.
Drake’s stunt got a rise out of DeMartini, who said he was irritated by the criticism. “The Republican Party event was indoors and we paid $8,000 for security,” DeMartini said.
The local Republican leader suggested that Drake give the bill for services to the Modesto Bee. “They are the ones who whipped up the hysteria,” DeMartini said. “They are the ones who are responsible for this.”
DeMartini chaired Tuesday’s supervisors meeting in place of Chairman Vito Chiesa, who was in Washington D.C. on county business. The three other board members, who are also Republicans, did not respond to Drake.
The Latino Community Roundtable was among the groups and individuals who reacted strongly to the news Coulter was hired as a speaker. The Bee reported in late February that Coulter would speak at the GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner and talk about her book, “In Trump We Trust.”
Ticket prices ranged from $125 to $10,000. The initial Bee report was followed by a March 5 piece on Coulter by columnist Jeff Jardine.
More than 20 people who spoke at the March 14 county board meeting, including Latino leaders and some veterans, expressed outrage about Coulter’s extreme opinions on immigrants, Latinos and women.
In a statement Tuesday, Bee Editor Joe Kieta said, “I find it astounding that Supervisor DeMartini is surprised that Ann Coulter's visit to Modesto generated coverage in The Bee. Of course it would; she is a rhetorical bomb-thrower and just the fact that she was speaking here was of intense interest to our audience, which is on all sides of the political spectrum.”
Kieta said the newspaper’s coverage was “measured, fair and accurate, especially given the high profile incidents involving her appearances (and nonappearances) elsewhere. We had a responsibility to cover this story. To neglect covering it would be journalistic malpractice.”
Police officers kept the peace as 100 people demonstrated outside the Modesto convention center April 28. At one point, officers stepped between protesters and Coulter supporters who were exchanging words, though the protests were mostly peaceful.
Stockton police billed Modesto for providing riot police. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department did not bill the city for the sheriff deputies who worked.
Rebecca Harrington, president of the Latino Community Roundtable, said the Republican Central Committee should have included police services in the budget for the event.
“To make the entire community of Modesto, whether they are supporters of the GOP or not, foot the bill for these extra costs is not appropriate,” Harrington said.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16
Board of Supervisors watch
The Board of Supervisors took the following action Tuesday:
▪ Approved a $1.18 billion county budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget places an emphasis on road and bridge construction, staffing and health care costs for the Public Safety Center expansion and public safety restoration.
▪ Heard a report on Stanislaus County Employees’ Retirement Association financial issues.
▪ OKed a $650,000 agreement for US Imaging to complete an index for official records.