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Organizers of Anti-Racism Panel in Santa Monica Worry About Disruption by White Nationalists


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 23, 2017 -- Organizers of a Santa Monica panel discussion on racism scheduled for Friday are worried the event may be disrupted by protesters linked to White Nationalism.

The panel, which is sponsored by Pico Youth and Family Center(PYFC), comes after a string of incidents where men, their faces often obscured by ball caps and bandannas, have attended meetings that normally attract little attention, creating escalating tensions, organizers said.

Friday's panel includes representatives of Black Lives Matter and several Hispanic organizations who will address "institutionalized racism," organizers said.

The center's executive director, Oscar de la Torre, said he has asked Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks for a stepped-up police presence at Friday's event.

“We don’t have a commitment,” de la Torre said.

A comment from Seabrooks was not immediately available.

De la Torre said that he and others involved in the racial-justice issue met with Seabrooks last Wednesday to discuss how police are handling a sudden presence of men affiliated with white nationalists at meetings of the Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ) and, on one occasion, the Santa Monica Democratic Club.

A handful turned up for the committee’s meeting in early July. In the session, taped and on YouTube, one of the men holds an anti-Semitic hand-made sign and others make provocative racial and anti-Jewish statements.

Later in the month, about a dozen anti-immigrant protesters interrupted speakers who were relating their stories of immigration to the U.S. during a meeting of the Santa Monica Democratic Club.

They chanted anti-immigration slogans and spoke out loudly as others were speaking at the meeting, which featured State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon as a speaker.

Rattled by the July meeting, CRJ officials focused their August 6 meeting on dealing with overt racism.

Dozens of outsiders showed up. A You Tube video of the meeting shows mean angrily shouting and shoving as they try to force their way past the doors. On the tape, several police officers appear to block the entrance to the meeting.

A CRJ member said the six-year-old organization is “being targeted” by white nationalists.

“They think they can shut us down,” said Joanne Berlin, who is on the CRJ’s steering committee.

She said the men seem to come from elsewhere in Southern California. De La Torre said some are associated with the Red Elephants, an anti-liberal group with a social media presence.

De La Torre said the actions of the intruders were aggressive enough to have warranted arrests by police, although none occurred.

Had minority protesters acted the same way, police would have quickly cuffed them to bring order to the scene, he said.

“Why don’t police use the same tactics when it comes to white supremacists?” he said.

Friday’s panel addresses institutionalized racism in schools and the future of ethnic studies, “black-brown solidarity” and the “indigenous and spiritual connections in the struggle for social, racial, environmental and economic justice,” the notice of the session says.

Panelists include representatives of Ethnic Studies Now, in Compton; Homies Unidos; Black Lives Matter; Pan-African Studies at CSULA, and the Xicanx Institute for Teaching and Organizing.

The panel is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at PYFC, 715 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica.


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