Activist Angered by Exclusion from Press Conference Last Week

Kate Mellon-Anibaba speaks to the crowd at the outset of the program in January

By Kate Mellon-Anibaba

This has been a tough week for everyone as we try to navigate and respond to the sermon given by the Islamic Center of Davis Imam.

In January when a friend told me that her daughter could not attend Sunday Islamic school because the Majid had been attacked and desecrated, my heart broke. I knew exactly how to respond, I wanted to bring communities together to heal and support our Muslim sisters and brothers. From a simple Facebook event inviting a few friends to come out to Friday prayer in solidarity, it grew and drew thousands of interested people.

In four short days I organized a rally and jumah prayer at Central Park that 1000 people attended. On that day I was nervous and frightened, I had support of more seasoned community organizers but I was still on the edge and terrified.

I had never done anything like this before and I needed it to go well for Davis. I had a set agenda of speakers so things would go smoothly.

Before I walked up to the stage to make my speech a man with kind eyes came up to me and said, “I would really like to speak, I was told to talk to you.” I said, “Oh, who are you?” Worried because it was last minute, as he told me that he was Rabbi Seth from the congregation Bet Haverim, I said of course you can speak and I added him into the program.

I didn’t know who he was…and it wasn’t the plan, but I wanted to create a space where people of good intentions in our community could come together in love, unity and understanding and get their message out in front of such a large amount of people.

I arrived at the press conference eager to hear the joint statement from the Jewish community, Muslim community and our elected officials. I had been bombarded with media, questions, concerns from community members and calls for me to act, considering I had rallied for the ICD before. It would be wonderful to see in person the statements made, so that I would be able to continue to work and fight for marginalized communities in Davis and make my judgments from first-hand knowledge.

I greeted my dear friend and respected elder Hamza. As I was asked for my name by the police officer holding a list, he told me that I was not on the list and would not be let in even after I explained who I was and why I was there.

Rabbi Castleman in January

I was concerned but continued conversations with new friends and old. I then saw two women ask to be let in and their names were not found on the list – all they said as I watched closely was that they were with the church. The police officer shrugged and waved them in. I was shocked but thought maybe I would ask again.

I saw Rabbi Seth as he was coming in and asked him if I could please be let in. I mixed up his name and called him Rabbi Wolfe in my nervousness (I am dyslexic and mix up names very easily). I apologized to Rabbi Seth and another man that corrected me in a stern condescending tone.

Rabbi Seth asked, “Who are you?” I told him I am the woman who organized the rally for the ICD in Central Park.” He looked at me with those kind eyes and said, “This is not open to the public,” and moved past me.

Standing there in shock, all I could think of was the same interaction that had taken place a few months back when he was asking to speak at the event I had organized. It was organized quickly, I was flustered and I was dealing with pain and fear for my Muslim community, but I still respected those in my created space. I deserved that respect today and I did not get it.

As a budding activist, leader and organizer in Davis, these are the kind of things that make me want to give up. I take off work; I spend time away from my family and friends because I truly believe that we all need to participate in our community to make it better. I see that the interfaith community has work to do and I wish them well on their path to healing.

I will be focusing my activist energies elsewhere, helping to organize a show of support at the preliminary hearing August 10 for the five black and brown young people who are facing unjust and racist charges for the Picnic Day incident.



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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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20 thoughts on “Activist Angered by Exclusion from Press Conference Last Week”

  1. Keith O

    I don’t get it, what’s the purpose of posting this article?  Someone didn’t get invited into a closed press conference and now they’re venting.  Many people that wanted to attend weren’t allowed in so were they disrespected too?

    Now if the article was about how they felt that the press conference should’ve been open to the public I could agree with that.

    1. David Greenwald

      First of all, the pres conference was hastily planned. There were people that should have been on a list that were not. And that caused problems. In the case of Kate, she’s especially upset because Rabbi Castleman had requested to speak at the last minute at her event, she accommodated her and he didn’t reciprocate.

      The other thing is that they originally set the press conference for a small room, so it made sense to have limited access given space limitations, but it was moved at the last minute to the fellowship hall with no such realistic limitations and yet – they turned people away.

      This was Dunning’s comment on a Facebook post and I agree with him (for once):

      Once you restrict access to an event concerning a topic many, many people cared passionately about and create some sort of master list, all sorts of people are going to be left out, some inadvertently, some intentionally. In Kate’s case, it’s like forgetting to invite the bride to the wedding. The “no questions” from the press policy sounded like something I’d expect from Sean Spicer, I mean Sarah Huckabee, I mean Anthony Scaramucci, I mean Ron Ziegler. That told me this whole thing was manufactured and the apology was perhaps a bit fragile and certainly not to be challenged or questioned by members of the press, who are basically untrustworthy and lucky to even be in the room in the first place. Of course, they needed the press there to “publicize” the apology, but certainly not to criticize it in any way.

      1. Keith O

        Did I not say that the press conference should’ve been open to the public.  Obviously they tried to control the message and didn’t want to take any hard questions.  But this article doesn’t address that.

  2. Cindy Pickett

    CBH members were originally told that the press conference was open to the public but then were later told that “Entry into the press conference is by invitation only for security reasons.” 

  3. Eric Gelber

    This was a carefully controlled public relations event, not a press conference. Excluding the public was a further means of controlling the message. The Imam’s “apology” was carefully worded so as to not acknowledge, disavow, or repudiate the vile content of the sermon. Mission accomplished.

  4. Jim Hoch

    The real question is, “do self-appointed ‘activists’ deserve entry where the public is excluded”?

    The focus on the cop with “the list” is petty, why not address whoever made “the list”? As noted by others it was a controlled event and attendees whose reaction might be unpredictable were not welcome.

  5. Alan Miller

    DG, in an earlier article you had reported that there was a group of community leaders, religious leaders and elected officials who had met before the press conference and crafted “the language”.  I asked if it was “the language” of the public apology.  Instead of answering, you requoted some stuff that did not answer my question — not that I saw anyhow.

    Now that people such as Dunning and others here are questioning the veracity of the apology, I am asking again.  I asked because I am wondering if the words were the Imam’s, or if the words were crafted by a committee of  “community leaders, religious leaders and elected officials”, which, if so, leads me to believe it was not a sincere apology but a carefully worded statement designed by so-called ‘leaders’ to calm the masses.  Which is not the same thing.  At all.

    So I’d really like to know.  I’m not making a conclusion as yet, and the answer to this question will have much input on how I will take the apology.

    1. Keith O

      I think Eric Gelber said it best:

      Eric Gelber August 1, 2017 at 9:05 am
      This was a carefully controlled public relations event, not a press conference. Excluding the public was a further means of controlling the message. The Imam’s “apology” was carefully worded so as to not acknowledge, disavow, or repudiate the vile content of the sermon. Mission accomplished.

      1. Alan Miller

        Yes, I read that.

        What I am asking is were the words the Imam’s words, or did a group of ‘leaders’ craft it (for him or with him) for the purpose of public consumption?  The wording in DG’s previous article was not clear on this, but could be taken as inside knowledge to imply “the language” that the group worked on was for the “apology”.  There was also an “agreement” mentioned, but I’m not sure what the agreement was, or what it was for, or if it is public.

        1. Robb Davis

          I talked to the Imam the day before the press conference.  He made it clear to me and others present that anything he read would be his own words, from his heart, and representing his genuine feelings and emotions.  He listened to the concerns of others as he developed his apology.  I have no doubt that the words he read were his own words, said in an authentic way.  He was most concerned that his words could represent his feelings.

          I am not aware of any “agreement,” except that everyone agreed that a public statement was necessary.

        2. Alan Miller

          OK thanks Robb, that helps.

          I am really unclear why DG is not answering this question directly.  I’ll dig up the exact wording that gave me pause . . . . .

  6. Howard P

    Is the correct word in the ‘headline’, “angry'”, or is more akin to “frustrated” and/or “chagrined” (disparate treatment compared to other women mentioned)?

    As I read her words, sure looked like the latter to me… when a pot of water is simmering, it should not be necessary to call it a full boil… in fact doing so might cause it to become so, if you ‘turn up the heat’…

    And Alan’s question is very valid, and I believe he is quite sincere on the ‘straight answer’ being important to conclusions he may draw…


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