June 16, 2024

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Eugene ends public forum after hate speech

5 min read
The hate speech followed a similar incident during the Human Rights Commission meeting. Councilor Lyndsie Leech said the commission "remains united in our resolve to combat any attempts to manipulate and weaponize our community against another."

The Eugene City Council abruptly adjourns its Oct. 23 public forum. A speaker shared two and a half minutes of hate speech, and later a second speaker started down the same path.

[00:00:13] Council President Randy Groves: Tonight’s meeting will include a public forum. If you wish to speak during the public forum and have not already done so please fill out a ‘Request to Speak’ form available on our public webcast and meeting materials web page.

[00:00:26] As a reminder, the council’s meeting rules of conduct include: No flags, signs, loud or disruptive language, noise, or contact that obstructs the business of the council. Please keep the room quiet and respectful for all the speakers.

[00:00:39] John Q: City staff announced the second speaker of the night.

[00:00:42] City of Eugene: Our next speaker is Michael.

[00:00:43] Michael: Thank you. Can you hear me? (Yes.). All right, great. I wanted to say: Can we have a moment of silence for the victims in Gaza? Israel’s killed more civilians in the last few days than, you know, than 9/11. It’s horrible.

[00:01:01] I want to go on to say: Have any of you ever heard of the Talmud? For those that don’t know, it’s one of the books that the Judaic faith uses to guide them. It can be found in every synagogue across America and the world, and I welcome you to fact-check my claims and consider what you may have previously believed to be wrong. Here’s some examples of scripture from the Talmud. Yevamot 49b—

[00:01:22] John Q: After several inaccurate translations, the speaker made a series of antisemitic statements. Two and a half minutes after starting, he ended with:

[00:01:32] Michael: White power.

[00:01:33] Council President Randy Groves: That’s enough. We’ll take a recess.

[00:01:37] John Q: After returning from the recess:

[00:01:41] Council President Randy Groves: I would just ask that everybody maintain a sense of decorum and respect in these proceedings. Testifying at public forum is not a right. It’s a privilege. And I just ask that everyone exercise that privilege responsibly.

[00:01:58] John Q: Those attending in person were allowed to comment first.

[00:02:01] City of Eugene: We are now moving on to our virtual participants. First up is Lee. Lee, I will be allowing you to speak.

[00:02:08] Lee: Thank you. Hello. Hi. Hello, everyone. Thank you for your time. So, tonight I’d like to speak on the issue of violent crime, larceny, and break-ins to vehicles. You know, our city has been facing increasing levels of vandalism and break-ins to cars and homes. And this seems to, you know, it just keeps, it just keeps increasing.

[00:02:36] So, you know, last month, my car’s passenger window was broken in two. And, oh my gosh, I have been facing a lot from it, okay, insurance, you know how it is. Listen, the main solution in fixing this problem is to put the people committing these crimes in prison.

[00:02:56] John Q: The speaker then attributed all such property crimes to a specific group of human beings.

[00:03:03] Council President Randy Groves: We’re closing the public forum.

[00:03:06] Lee: Excuse me? Excuse me?

[00:03:11] City of Eugene: President Groves, why don’t we adjourn the meeting, take a recess.

[00:03:14] Council President Randy Groves: And I’d like to take a recess.

[00:03:16] John Q: After the recess:

[00:03:19] Council President Randy Groves: I’m adjourning this meeting. Good night, everyone.

[00:03:23] John Q: The meeting started with items of interest.

[00:03:26] Council President Randy Groves: Do other councilors have items of interest to come before the City Council? Councilor Leech.

[00:03:34] Councilor Lyndsie Leech: Thank you. Yes, we had our Human Rights Commission meeting last week and I wanted to read a portion of a statement that was released post that meeting, because we had an incident in which unidentified individuals attempted to use the Human Rights Commission meeting as a platform for disseminating messages infused with hate, antisemitism, and harmful sentiment aimed at our Jewish, immigrant, and Black communities. As a commission, we unequivocally denounce such behavior and rhetoric and we are steadfast in our commitment to a community free from hatred, bigotry, and discrimination.

[00:04:13] As eloquently stated by Commissioner Dr. Silky Booker during the meeting, ‘There are no winners in war.’ And we remain united in our resolve to combat any attempts to manipulate and weaponize our community against another.

[00:04:26] And so, just emphasizing the need for all communities to have a deeper understanding of the tragic situation in the Middle East. And we stress the importance of respecting human rights on both sides, here and abroad.

[00:04:39] So I just wanted to read parts of that statement, because of incidents that we had in our own community with the protests here, downtown, and just to reiterate our commitment to making sure that everyone in our community feels like they’re welcomed and belong. So thank you.

[00:04:56] John Q: Eugene City Council abruptly adjourns its public forum, as hate speech, threats, and violence spread across a nation roiled by war in the Middle East.

On Oct. 24, the city released the following statement:

During the public comment period at the Monday, Oct. 23, City Council meeting, speakers made disturbing racist and antisemitic comments that cannot go unaddressed. 

Council President Randy Groves emphasizes that “the City Council does not condone any vile or derogatory comments, especially against individuals or groups. The City of Eugene is proud to be home to people from all backgrounds and does not tolerate hate and bigotry in any form.”

The City of Eugene has a longstanding history and commitment of celebrating and supporting people of all races, national origins, immigration and refugee statuses, religions, gender, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, ages, and economic statuses. In alignment with City Council’s goal of creating a safe and welcoming community, the Council values human rights, peace, respect, inclusivity and equity. The City Council has formalized these values and commitment through its adoptions of resolutions that condemn hate, xenophobia, racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sexism and other forms of bigotry, and is committed to standing together with the people of Eugene in opposing hate and bias. If you or someone you know have been impacted by hate, bias, or discrimination, please contact 1-844-924-2427 or report online at www.eugene-or.gov/reporthate.

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