Wesson called a news conference Thursday morning in which he denounced the racially charged and sexist language that have become a regular occurrence during the City Council’s public comment period.
He said he “will not stand idly by and allow these types of things to occur without engaging in a conversation.”
“I am the president of the Los Angeles City Council, and I have a responsibility to make sure that all of the workers in this building are safe … that all of the visitors that come to this building are safe, and I take that responsibility very seriously,” he said.
Wesson said he was recently the “victim” of one of these hate speech attacks, and that “at the urging of my staff,” he reported a public comment card with Ku Klux Klan imagery to the police.
During a committee meeting chaired by Wesson last week, a public comment card was submitted containing images of a burning cross and a person hanging from a tree by a noose. At the center of the card is a drawing of what appears to be a triangular-shaped person in a Ku Klux Klan hood carrying a noose and a sign that says “Herb = (N-word).”
“You don’t threaten a black man that way,” Wesson said. “In fact, you don’t threaten anyone in this country that way. I take these types of threats seriously.”
Wesson said the person who submitted the comment card knew it “was going to find its way to the individual who was chairing this meeting, and this card was a message to me.”
He said that while he thinks of himself as “a happy-go-lucky guy,” the latest incident was “not funny — this is not a joke.”
Wesson said the imagery on the comment card calls up real experiences of his own family members, who lived in Arkansas and Georgia and had stories of “liquored up Klansmen running through the south, terrorizing black people” and saw “crosses being burned on the lawns of their friends.”
Police last week arrested 46-year-old Wayne Spindler, a frequent City Hall gadfly, on suspicion of making criminal threats in connection with the public comment card. Spindler was arrested Friday and his bail was set at $75,000. He was released about 10 p.m. that day.
The 46-year-old Spindler allegedly submitted the public-comment card at a May 11 meeting of the council’s Rules, Elections, Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhood Committee. The card, which is available for viewing in a public records portion of the City Clerk’s Office website, indicates it was submitted by “Wayne from ENCINO.”
Spindler, speaking to ABC7, said he will fight if any charges are filed against him.
“They don’t listen to us,” he said. “The only way they listen to us (is) if we’re emphatic,” he said.
“… This guy (Wesson) is just using this as a ploy,” Spindler said. “He wants to get me and other people out of City Hall.”
Spindler’s arrest was first reported in the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper. Wesson told the Sentinel he has become increasingly alarmed by Spindler’s comments at council meetings.
City Council members have struggled to contain language derogatory to specific groups, because such commentary is permitted at public meetings under free speech and public meeting laws. Two years ago, the city agreed to pay $215,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man ejected from Recreation and Parks Commission meeting for wearing a KKK hood.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was president when he was on the City Council, said the council meetings allow for “incredibly robust free speech, some might say even too robust, but that’s the First Amendment.”
The laws permit people to swear, wear Nazi uniforms or KKK outfits “that we find abhorrent,” he said. “And I always, when I was City Council president, reminded people that while that may be their right, that should not be their judgment and I will use my speech to condemn and speak out against that,” he said.
Garcetti expressed support for Wesson and said he found the drawings on the card “very disturbing” and the card “arguably was something that the City Council president felt … was a direct threat toward him.”
—City News Service
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