A local meeting addressing race relations in Santa Monica drew a small protest last week that meeting organizers are calling “racist and anti-Semitic.”
The Committee for Racial Justice organized the “White Privilege and What We Can Do About It” workshop and said five individuals who attended the meeting made racists and anti-Semitic comments throughout the event. Several videos were posted after the event by both sides of the issue.
Venice resident Clay Claiborne posted an edited video of the meeting describing the protestors as white-nationalists and said the presence of masked men at the meeting was evidence of a growing fascist movement in the country.
“Anti-capitalist and anti-fascist fighters have long worn masks for good reason, and the Occupy movement made the bandana across the face very fashionable, but these bullies weren’t hiding their face from the police or the Trump Justice Department. They are hiding their faces for the same cowardly reason the Klu Klux Klan always hides their’s,” he wrote.
In Claiborne’s video, one of the masked men can be seen holding a hand-written sign with a slogan that’s often used online to malign Jews or suggest Jewish conspiracy theories. The masked men questioned classifying Jews as white and said Jewish privilege should be a topic of conversation.
Several videos also show a woman rising from her seat and accusing the protesters of making anti-Semitic comments throughout the meeting. She describes herself as raised Catholic but then declared herself a Jew in solidarity with what she saw as the abusive comments.
Two of the protestors identified themselves as working for The Red Elephants, a website with self-described conservative values. The three masked men did not identify as part of the organization and at the end of the meeting David Feiner, who is listed on the Red Elephants website as a part of the organization said the three men did not arrive with him.
A two-hour video of the entire meeting was posted to the Red Elephants Facebook page and the Red Elephants website posted a 30-minute edited version with commentary.
“Pretty much everything we’ve heard thus far in this meeting was racist rhetoric against white people,” said Vincent James in the commentary.
James is a co-founder of the site and goes on to say the arguments pertaining to classifying Jews as non-white are not racist.
“I’m not saying that I have something against Jewish people, I’m saying that if you’re saying your white and you have Jewish ancestry, you’re not f-ing white,” he said.
The Red Elephants describes itself as a news/media company.
“The Red Elephants is an organization of like-minded conservatives that have come together to spread awareness and truth. Each member of The Red Elephants organization represents the liberties, freedoms and constitutional rights of the American people,” according to their website. “Our goal is to spread truth to the citizens of this great nation by reporting news and promoting free thinking. We will present a new brand of reporting that will be used to give conservatives a voice in the media that’s dominated by the left.”
During the meeting, Feiner accused organizers of propagating white supremacy arguments in their explanation of white privilege.
“You’re a white supremacist, everything you just said is white people are better than everyone, you just gave a list on all the reasons white people are better than everybody and you said because I’m so great because I’m white, I’m going to go and help out the poor little black people,” he said.
Following the meeting, CRJ sent out an email statement to those in attendance.
“During 6 plus years of monthly workshops, this was the first incident of this kind we have had,” they said. “Unfortunately, we were inadequately prepared for this one. Clearly we want to be much better prepared for any recurrence in the future, and we want to let you know what steps we have taken and plan to take to that end. We have identified the group that these disrupters represented. The group is called the Red Elephants. They are pro-Trump and obviously racist and anti-Semitic.”
CRJ member Robbie Jones said she felt the protestors came with the intent of disrupting the meeting and intimidating attendees.
“They did not come to participate in a way that was OK with everyone, they came to be seen, disrupt and that was their motivation,” she said.
While some people did leave, she said those that remained didn’t let the meeting get derailed.
“It worked in CRJ’s favor, we continued our meeting and we continued to get the information out and have a successful workshop as best we could,” she said.
Jones said there has been disagreement at past workshops but she felt the desire to install fear and/or intimidate was a new experience for the organization. The experience is already impacting their future workshops and the August event will discuss strategies for confronting and addressing racist, threatening or intimidating behavior.
“We will definitely, within our CRJ steering committee, be doing a few things differently to make sure everyone is comfortable and feels safe and still continues to get information,” she said.