Category Archives: Black Lives Matter

In Martinez, Contra Costa and elsewhere – white backlash to Black Lives Matter

White backlash to Black Lives Matter was swift. It was also expected

San Francisco Chronicle, by Otis R. Taylor Jr. July 9, 2020 
Justin Gomez at the site of a Black Lives Matter mural that he and his wife, Angela helped organize and that had been defaced shortly after being completed in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. The couple that vandalized the Black Lives Matter mural (since restored) on Court Street on July 4th, has been charged with a hate crime each for their actions.
Justin Gomez at the site of a Black Lives Matter mural that he and his wife, Angela helped organize and that had been defaced shortly after being completed in Martinez, Calif., on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. The couple that vandalized the Black Lives Matter mural (since restored) on Court Street on July 4th, has been charged with a hate crime each for their actions. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

The expected hostility toward the racial uprising energizing the country has begun.

It was expected by behaviorists and historians because history reveals that when some white people feel threatened by social justice movements, they lash out.

On July 4, the paint had barely dried on the 165-foot long Black Lives Matter mural on the street in front of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez when a man and a woman showed up. They dumped black paint on the yellow letters.

“This is not happening in my town,” the woman said as she spread the paint with a roller.

The hateful display of counterfeit patriotism was video-recorded by bystanders and went viral. On Tuesday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton charged Nicole Anderson and David Nelson with a hate crime for defacing the mural.

“It was a peaceful mural, and it was a powerful way, as we’ve seen all over the country, that has been used to think about the importance of Black lives,” Becton told me. “But this one in particular was to think about the importance of Black lives in Contra Costa County.”

The county is roughly 43% white, according to census data. Black people make up less than 10% of the county’s population, while Latinos account for about 26% of county residents.

A 2018 report by UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project and the California Housing Partnership studied housing prices and demographic changes in the county from 2000 to 2015 to, among other things, understand trends producing “patterns of segregation and unequal access to high-resource neighborhoods that have defined the county’s racial and economic geography for decades.”

By 2015, the report concluded, “approximately half of low-income Black and Latinx households in the county lived in segregated, high-poverty tracts — approximately triple the rate of low-income Asian and White households, and a steep increase from 2000. Families in these types of neighborhoods typically face greater barriers to economic mobility [and] are more likely to suffer adverse health outcomes.”

Once again, systemic racism impacts the health, economic and educational outcomes of people of color.

The permitted Black Lives Matter mural in Martinez was repainted almost immediately, but get this: The very next day, a man was arrested for allegedly pulling a gun on people looking at the mural, according to the Police Department.

The retaliation is driven by hate, resentment and fear. Don’t be surprised if it lasts beyond next year’s presidential inauguration.

“These are old means of subordination that white people have used,” said UC Berkeley psychology Professor Dacher Keltner, referring to recent viral incidents, including in Indiana where a Black man was attacked in the woods by white men. “This racism is the fabric of this culture.”

And when protesters rallied earlier this week to support Vauhxx Booker, the Black man who called the Indiana incident an “attempted lynching,” someone drove their car through the crowd, NBC News reported.

Wait, there’s more. A white woman used the N-word while arguing with a Black woman in a Sacramento-area convenience store on June 25. A white diner called someone enjoying a family celebration at a Carmel Valley restaurant an “Asian piece of s—.”

“Trump’s gonna f— you,” he said, rising from the table.

He already has.

The president is a grifter who knows hate is currency in America. He stokes white fear and resentment by painting Black Lives Matter protesters as terrorists and thugs. On July 1, he called Black Lives Matter murals symbols of hate. If his lies were your main source of information about people of color, you’d think the white, Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous people marching for social justice were a bigger threat to this country than the coronavirus.

That’s why a white couple in St. Louis pointed their guns at protesters who marched past their home.

“The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism — it’s a lie,” said the man in the Martinez incident, identified as Nelson, who wore a red T-shirt with “four more years” on the front. “Why don’t you guys learn about history?”

Once again, ignorance is a hallmark of white supremacy.

Here’s a brief lesson in American history: Southern white people went to war and sacrificed a generation to preserve the right to buy, sell and trade Black bodies. Then this country built statues to honor human traffickers and to remind Black people that their place — no, our lives — were conditional. After slavery was abolished, the lynchings of Black people became appointment viewing. Black people’s homes, churches and offices were bombed during the civil rights movement.

I could go on, but you get the historical context. In this country, when some white people feel their way of life — their status — is threatened, they respond with violence.

Dana Frank, a research professor of history at UC Santa Cruz, told me that some white resentment turns into anger instead of reflection.

“There’s white people that are well-meaning or confused and clueless, and then there’s the people who are actively crossing over into hostility. The second category is much harder to reach,” she said. “I think it’s very hard for your average white person to see all those forms of institutionalized racism in which they come out ahead. How do you open the door to somebody seeing that without that person feeling threatened?”

By getting white people to talk to white people about systemic racism.

Justin Gomez, who obtained the permit for the street mural, organized the effort a week after flyers calling for white unity were distributed in Martinez. Gomez, who is Filipino and was raised in Walnut Creek, has two children. He’s a stay-at-home dad, and his wife is a health care worker.

He told me he was blown away at how quickly the mural was defaced. Then again, he lives in Contra Costa County.

“We see Confederate flags,” Gomez said. “We see a lot of racist rhetoric in our local social media circles, so we fully knew that that was going to happen and we were ready for it.”

Six gallons of yellow paint were delivered to him Monday.

“We’re ready to fix it again,” he said.

Nextdoor working to remove racism in posts – Black Lives Matter is a local topic

It’s ‘Our Fault’: Nextdoor CEO Takes Blame For Deleting Of Black Lives Matter Posts

NPR All Things Considered, by Bobby Allyn, July 1, 2020
Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar, here in July 2019, tells NPR the popular neighborhood app is taking steps to address reports of racial profiling and censorship on the platform. Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images

As protests swept the nation following the police killing of George Floyd, there was a surge of reports that Nextdoor, the hyperlocal social media app, was censoring posts about Black Lives Matter and racial injustice.

In an interview with NPR, Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar said the company should have moved more quickly to protect posts related to Black Lives Matter by providing clearer guidance.

It “was really our fault” that moderators on forums across the country were deleting those posts, she said.

People of color have long accused Nextdoor, which serves as a community bulletin board in more than 265,000 neighborhoods across the U.S., of doing nothing about users’ racist comments and complaints. But Nextdoor came under especially heavy criticism in May after the company voiced public support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Unpaid volunteers, known as leads, moderate posts on Nextdoor. Friar said they were deleting posts about Black Lives Matter because they were following outdated rules stating that national conversations have no place in neighborhood forums. Those guidelines have now been revised to state that conversations about racial inequality and Black Lives Matter are allowed on Nextdoor.

“We did not move quickly enough to tell our leads that topics like Black Lives Matter were local in terms of their relevance,” Friar said. “A lot of our leads viewed Black Lives Matter as a national issue that was happening. And so, they removed that content, thinking it was consistent with our guidelines.”

She added that the new rules make one thing clear: “Black Lives Matter is a local topic.”

Friar said that Nextdoor is taking several more steps to improve the moderation of comments. It will soon offer unconscious bias training to all moderators. It will also launch a campaign to enlist more Black moderators. And it is ramping up efforts to detect and remove instances of racial profiling.

Apologizing, then asking for help from Black users

Neighbors take to Nextdoor to search for a local plumber, find a babysitter or sell a piece of furniture. But the app also has gained notoriety for spreading panicked messages that carry racist overtones.

In recent weeks, as the national conversation has centered on racial injustice, Black users have shared their stories of abandoning Nextdoor. One person wrote on Twitter that they stopped using it after reading repeated complaints about “large groups of black teens walking in their neighborhood.” Another tweeted that their neighbors would write messages such as “Saw a black youth hanging out next door. Calling the cops.”

Mayisha Fruge, 42, a black mother of two in San Diego, Calif., who is active on Nextdoor, said those kinds of post sound familiar.

About 90% of her neighbors come across as good, decent people on the app, she said.

“That other 10 percent? They must be hiding behind the computer. I never would have thought that my neighborhood had those types of people, racist people in it,” she told NPR.

In one post, a neighbor was suspicious about a black person who was simply taking a stroll. Another asked: do the Black Lives Matter protesters have jobs?

“I said, what does this have to do with equality and justice?” Fruge said.

Friar has apologized to Black users who have said they do not feel welcomed or respected on the app, vowing that racism has no place on Nextdoor.

She also announced that Nextdoor was cutting off a tie to law enforcement by ending a “forward to police” feature that allowed users to report observed activity to authorities.

But Friar told NPR that Nextdoor’s efforts to combat racism on the app will go even further.

Nextdoor has enlisted Stanford University psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt to help slow down the speed of comments to tamp down on racial profiling, and it’s working with her to make unconscious bias training available to hundreds of thousands of moderators.

It is a change that some Nextdoor users have demanded. In an online petition, they criticized the app’s “murky” guidelines for content moderation, which users said led to abuse and the silencing of Black voices.

In response to Nextdoor’s commitments, the Atlanta-based group Neighbors for More Neighbors, which helped organize the petition, applauded the news but remained cautious.

“This is a positive step towards creating a true community forum where all people in our neighborhoods feel safe to participate,” said activist Andrea Cervone with the group. “We will be keeping an eye on the company to make sure they continue forward and fulfill these public commitments.”

In Northwest Indiana, Jennifer Jackson-Outlaw had a lukewarm reception to the company’s announcements. Jackson, a black woman who became fed up with Nextdoor and deleted the app, said Nextdoor’s mostly white executive suite needs a shakeup in order to effect real cultural change at the company.

“It’s important to not only have representation as far as those who are the moderator, but also those who are in the leadership of the company who may be more be well-versed on some of the issues,” she said.

At Nextdoor, Friar has kicked off an effort to recruit more Black leads. This includes inviting especially active Black users to become moderators and starting outreach campaigns to encourage Black users to join the app.

“We recognize that is an underrepresented group on Nextdoor,” Friar said of Black users. “There are others of course, but we want to start there because we really feel that the Black Lives Matter movement is so critical and important right now just to the health of our country.”

Friar described Nextdoor’s content moderation as “a layered cake,” saying it involves local moderators, artificial intelligence tools and the company’s human reviewers.

She said that the app’s AI programs are being fine-tuned to better detect both explicit racism and posts that engage in racial profiling, or what she called “coded racist content.” Nextdoor is now dedicating more staff to focus on attempting to ferret out racist content on the app.

“We’re really working hard to make sure racist statements don’t end up in the main news feed, making sure that users that don’t act out the guidelines aren’t on the platform anymore,” Friar said. “It is our No. 1 priority at the company to make sure Nextdoor is not a platform where racism survives.”

Confronting the ‘Karen problem’

Though anecdotal evidence suggests Nextdoor’s user base is largely white, Friar said the company has no internal metrics about the race of its users.

The app does not ask about race when users sign up, a decision that Friar said may soon change as the company examines how best to hold itself accountable in its push to diversify the platform.

“We are debating that,” she said. “Because if we want to measure our success of being a diverse platform, perhaps that’s something we do need to ask.”

Critics of Nextdoor, including U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have drawn attention to the app’s so-called Karen problem. It’s a term that has come to describe a middle-aged, privileged white woman with racist habits, whether overt or subtle.

When asked if Nextdoor has a Karen problem, Friar deflected by saying any intolerance or racism on the app is a snapshot of issues plaguing the entire country, not problems confined to the neighborhood platform.

“Does the U.S. have that problem? Yes, it’s out there,” Friar said. “But I think we’re working as hard as we can to make sure neighbors are doing right by each other, that they’re being civil, being respectful and that they’re not falling back to calling each other names but rather trying to deeply understand.”

Juneteenth protest on Carquinez Bridge leads to 3 arrests

Marchers arrested after Carquinez Bridge protest extends into traffic lanes, by Bay City News, June 20, 2020

Three people were arrested Friday after protesters in a Juneteenth Black Lives Matter “March Across the Carquinez Bridge” that originated in Vallejo shut down motor traffic in westbound lanes of the Alfred Zampa Bridge.

About 55 protesters entered the pedestrian walkway of the Zampa Bridge about 1:30 p.m. and some went over the concrete barrier and onto the traffic shoulder about 10 minutes later and then into vehicle lanes, halting traffic, according to the Golden Gate Division of the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP said it intermittently opened one lane to relieve the traffic backup before clearing the lanes about 3 p.m.

“One CHP officer was assaulted by a protester and the protester was later arrested,” officials said in a social media post. “The CHP officer sustained minor injuries.”

Facebook: CHP – Golden Gate Division


This afternoon at approximately 1:29 PM, a group of approximately 55 protesters proceeded onto the Carquinez Bridge pedestrian walkway. At approximately 1:40 PM, protesters crossed over the concrete barrier between the pedestrian walkway and right hand shoulder of Westbound I-80. Protesters subsequently entered the Westbound I-80 lanes of traffic. Westbound I-80 was shutdown, with one lane of traffic intermittently open by CHP officers on scene to relieve congestion. At approximately 3:00 PM all lanes of traffic were opened.

Three arrests were made during this incident:

Princess Hodges (20 yrs) out of Benicia was arrested and booked for: 243(C) PC (Felony) – Battery on a Peace/Police Officer with Injury, 69 PC (Felony) – Resisting an Executive Officer, 148 (A)(1) PC (Misd) – Resist, Obstruct, Delay Peace Officer, and 21960A VC (Infraction) – Pedestrian On Freeway.

Jeremy Christian Smith-Batha (27 yrs) out of Sacramento was arrested and booked for: 69 PC (Felony) – Resisting an Executive Officer, 836.6(A) PC (Felony) – Escape or Attempt to Escape With Force/ETC, 243(B) PC (Misd) – Battery on a Peace/Police Officer, 148(A)(1) PC (Misd) – Resist, Obstruct, Delay Peace Officer, 148(B) PC (Misd) – Take Peace Officer’s Weapon, 22210 PC (Misd) – Manufacture/Possess Leaded Cane/ETC, and 21960A VC (Infraction) – Pedestrian On Freeway.

Michael Joshua Alonso (22 yrs) out of Vallejo was arrested and booked for: 148(A)(1) PC (Misd) – Resist, Obstruct, Delay Peace Officer and 21960A VC (Infraction) – Pedestrian On Freeway.

One CHP officer was assaulted by a protester and the protester was later arrested. The CHP officer sustained minor injuries.

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Chainsaw-wielding racist gets boosted by a top Trump aide as race protests sweep the nation

The activity by a senior Trump campaign adviser, and former White House aide, reflects a broader movement by some Republicans to attack the protests against police brutality.

Mercedes Schlapp

Politico, by Marc Caputo, June 6, 2020

President Donald Trump and his allies for years have amplified racist messages on Twitter while simultaneously reaching out to black and Hispanic voters, a dissonant balancing act that’s now rocking the GOP amid nationwide racial-justice protests.

The two competing forces collided Saturday on the Twitter feed of Trump campaign senior adviser Mercedes Schlapp, when she boosted a tweet that lauded a man in Texas in a viral video as he yelled the n-word and wielded a chainsaw to chase away anti-racism demonstrators.

After POLITICO reached out to her and the campaign Saturday morning, Schlapp then retweeted another account that posted a version of the video that muted the racist slur. After this story published, she removed both her retweets and issued a written apology Saturday evening.

“I deeply apologize and I retweeted without watching the full video. I deleted the tweet,” Schlapp wrote. “I would never knowingly promote the use of that word. This is time for healing the nation and not division.”

Beyond Trump’s inner circle, Republicans have been under fire over racist social-media posts in Texas, where the chainsaw incident happened, triggering strife within GOP circles.

dozen GOP county chairs in the state are under scrutiny for sharing racist social media posts commenting on the unrest and uprisings across the nation in response to the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by a white Minnesota police officer. One county chair juxtaposed a Martin Luther King Jr. quote next to an image of a banana, and another commented that “pandemic isn’t working. Start the racial wars.”

Against this backdrop, Schlapp‘s Saturday retweets highlighted how the Trump campaign operates in contradictory worlds of its own making. On one hand, Schlapp favorably promoted a man spewing anti-black racism and on the other she urged black people to vote for Trump just three days prior in an online campaign discussion on race. In that setting, she attacked Joe Biden’s tough-on-crime past while eliding Trump’s past record and rhetoric.

“Joe Biden supported the mass incarceration of black and Hispanic communities and has failed to lift them out of poverty,” Schlapp said. “In stark contrast, President Trump has delivered unprecedented opportunity for black Americans.”

The Twitter activity from Schlapp was part of a longstanding practice by Trump and his backers who occasionally use Twitter to amplify inflammatory messages that are at odds with the campaign’s appeals to black and other minority voters. Trump, who has fought accusations of racism for years, was in the midst of a black-voter outreach effort when Floyd’s killing changed the political dynamics.

The night before Schlapp’s retweet of the video to her 140,000 followers, the president retweeted a clip of conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s interview with a conservative black commentator, Candace Owens, who has taken a lead role in bashing Floyd.

“@RealCandaceO gave her thoughts: ‘The fact that he has been held up as a martyr sickens me,’” Beck tweeted on Wednesday. Trump boosted the post Friday with a retweet.

Trump has not personally criticized Floyd, called on the federal government to investigate his killing by Minneapolis police and has also used his Twitter feed to praise supporters who are black.

But after the looting erupted amid some protests over Floyd’s killing, Trump was criticized for denouncing “THUGS” in a Twitter post that warned “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase traced back to a segregation-era Miami police chief. Twitter flagged the tweet for violating its rules against inciting violence. The White House then posted the message, getting flagged as well. Trump later claimed he didn’t know where the phrase originated.

Retweeting used to occupy a type of gray area on Twitter. The phrase “retweets are not an endorsement” was long a mantra of those who wanted to essentially repost content from another account on their own for a variety of purposes, from an interest in engaging in honest discussion to plausible deniability. But Twitter behavior evolved with new functionality to allow a person to comment on a retweeted post through “quote tweeting.” Now when campaign staff retweet messages, they generally lose the ability to credibly argue they weren’t reinforcing and broadcasting a message that aligns with their viewpoints.

The controversy with Trump surged again in April when the president was criticized for retweeting a message that said “fire Fauci,” concerning one of his top advisers on the coronavirus pandemic.

Before he became president, Trump came under fire for a wide variety of Twitter activity — from promoting the false “birther” conspiracy about President Barack Obama to retweeting a false message about “black on black” crime. The following year, he tweeted an image of a Star of David set on a field of cash, which many viewed as anti-Semitic. The latter tweet has been deleted.

The president’s son and namesake last year questioned the race of Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), a candidate for president at the time who’s now on Joe Biden’s running-mate shortlist. He deleted the tweet after outcry.

In Schlapp’s case, she retweeted a quoted tweet of the viral video that had been viewed about 7.5 million times on Twitter as of Saturday afternoon. The video originated in McAllen, Texas, where demonstrators had gathered downtown, only to be confronted by a man with a chainsaw that he revved at them as they fled.

“Go home!” yells the man, who was arrested Friday. “Don’t let those f—— n—— out there fool you!”

The man’s use of racist language and violent threats were roundly condemned on social media, with some sarcastically referring to the cult classic “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movie. A pro-Trump account from Texas, though, lauded the assailant on Twitter and said he is “a Mexican business owner.” Another pro-Trump account, called Latino Townhall, approvingly quote-tweeted the post Friday night and exclaimed: “That’s how to do it.”

Hours later, Schlapp retweeted that post. Schlapp, who is married to the prominent head of the American Conservative Union that hosts the popular CPAC conference, later retweeted it from another account that censored the racist comment but wrote the protesters had said “f— the police.” There is no evidence the demonstrators said that.

The man in Texas, identified as Daniel Peña by local press, exposed a little-discussed issue among Latinos: anti-black racism. The McAllen police department on Saturday confirmed Pena’s ethnicity as “White/Hispanic.”

The issue of anti-black sentiment among Latinos has surfaced as an issue in Schlapp’s original hometown of Miami, where Democrats and progressives fretted that support for demonstrations over Floyd have been under-represented by Hispanics in the community.

Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, said his organization is trying to address the issue of racism among Hispanics while Trump’s is helping to fuel it.

“The Trump campaign strategy has always been to win through division. But Mercedes’ tweet shows they are taking it to the next level,” said Peñalosa.

“While most of us are having honest discussions on how to expose racism and eliminate it — the Trump campaign has moved beyond their 2016 dog whistles and passive nods to fringe racist groups,” he said. “Now they are giving racists a platform, retweeting them and actively amplifying their message. It makes my skin crawl.”

Laura Barrón-López contributed to this report.