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Seaside City Council to discuss new rules for public comments after racist “Zoombombings”

SEASIDE, Calif. (KION-TV)- In what has been a growing trend on the Monterey Peninsula, the City of Seaside was the most recent to have a group derail a city council meeting with hate speech.

Pacific Grove and Monterey also recently had anonymous people call in via Zoom to spout antisemitic and hateful comments towards several minority communities.

On Thursday, at least two anonymous callers called in to spout hateful speech directed towards the Jewish and Black communities during a discussion on fireworks within city limits.

One of the callers spoke on the current conflict in Gaza before going into an antisemitic tirade and then ending by saying the n-word.

A second caller hijacked the meeting by going on similar antisemitic and hateful speech against Mexican and Black people.

Seaside Councilmember Alex Miller asked Mayor Ian Oglesby to take back control of the meeting to which the mayor replied:

"Wait a minute. Calm down. We have a process we're working through. They have a right to start their public comments," said Mayor Oglesby, before agreeing that the comments were inappropriate and moving on with the meeting.

Councilmember Alexis Garcia-Arrazola took to Instagram to condemn the actions of the people who called in.

After seeing what happened in two neighboring cities, Mayor Oglesby said he anticipated that this could happen.

“I had an idea of what I needed to do,” said Oglesby. “Yes, I was prepared for it. In a sense, what are the proper procedures to remove the disrespectful comments.”

Right now, if people want to make public comments at council meetings, they can show up in person, email their comments, or participate by Zoom or by phone. But city leaders are working to make sure that these anonymous callers don't "Zoom bomb" another meeting. 

“It may be some type of limitation of calling in from Zoom,” said Oglesby. “It's really about how to prevent this from happening again.” 

It's still unclear for now what those rules would look like. Council would need to take a look at what the rules for public comment would look like moving forward. They're planning to discuss it at their next council meeting.

But both city leaders and community groups said hateful language like the one heard at Thursday's meeting is shocking. Adding it has no place in the community. 

“I'm shocked and appalled at the behavior of some of these speakers last night,” said Councilmember Alex Miller. “I call for it to end. I call for action to end white supremacy in our city. Let's talk and get together.”

“I think they should stop hiding in the shadows,” said Lyndon Tarver, President of the NAACP for Monterey County. “If you have something to say, come in person and say it. Stop being cowardly by interrupting the meetings and the productivity of the cities of what they're trying to do.”

Seaside Chief of Police Nick Borges said that while he does not stand for the hateful comments the people have a First Amendment right and it does not appear any formal crime was committed. They came close to violating Penal Code Section 403 for disrupting a public meeting.

"The comments were hateful and inappropriate. I was proud to work for the City of Seaside and how they handled the situation with professionalism and grace," said Chief Borges.

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Ana Torrea

Weekend Anchor/Reporter for KION News Channel 5/46

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Ricardo Tovar

Assignment/ Web Manager for KION News Channel 5/46 and Telemundo 23

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