By David M. Greenwald
This year in a lot of ways has been a wake up call for many in our community believing that we lived safely within what some still call the Davis bubble. But if anything, that bubble has popped as we are starting to see the rise of extremist elements in our local community.
As one letter writer in the Enterprise put it: “The city of Davis is being bullied. All year, Moms For Liberty has harassed our residents, following a national playbook of intimidation.”
She added, “Moms For Liberty has been labeled a hate group. Their Yolo Chair has doxed and harassed our teachers (despite a restraining order blocking her from school grounds), public servants, and nonprofit leaders.”
The Davis Phoenix Coalition recently published a piece in the Vanguard that noted, “We first became aware of a campaign against the rights of trans students in the Davis school district at a DJUSD Board of Education meeting in December 2022. Since then, a handful of members of the Yolo County Moms for Liberty chapter have continuously attacked the LGBTQ+ community at every level: in Davis and Woodland schools, at the Yolo County library, and at the Davis City Council.”
It would be easy to write this off as the work of a small minority of people in our community—which it very well might be.
However, these local activities easily connect with national right-wing groups.
As the Phoenix Coalition noted, “In light of how the event was portrayed by conservative national media such as Tucker Carlson’s show and on social media, we are not surprised that threats to the library and to staff followed.”
Indeed, on August 21, after the library incident, the local leader for Moms for Liberty, who still identifies as a “liberal Democrat” sent links to the media from right-wing sites: Fox News, Outkick, and the Washington Examiner.
It is a demonstration once again that what was once local is now easily connected to national movements.
But while some residents are complaining about their free speech rights—we have had multiple incidents of bomb threats which catch our attention, it is the smaller acts of intimidation and fear that we don’t see that may be more pernicious.
I’m not sure I expected to write an article on book bannings in California in 2023—let alone weekly updates to those articles.
It’s not just here.
Sacramento Councilmember Katie Valenzuela authored an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee this week.
Valenzuela noted, “In recent weeks, swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti have appeared on multiple campuses in our region, including Del Dayo Elementary School in Carmichael.”
It’s not just there, on Monday, the Bee reported, “An investigation is underway by the River Delta Unified School District into antisemitic gestures allegedly made by four students at a Yolo County high school.
“The district was made aware Monday night of four Delta High School students reportedly making hateful gestures at an outside location, according to Superintendent Kathy Wright. She said the investigation began “first thing” Tuesday morning.”
The investigation came roughly 16 hours after a picture of four students performing a Nazi salute circulated on social media and garnered thousands of likes.
“We absolutely will not tolerate such horrific behaviors, and actions and appropriate disciplinary actions will be assigned immediately as these behaviors are in direct opposition to the values, beliefs and goals of our schools and the district as a whole,” Wright said in a statement.
Yes of course, but it’s not clear what local districts can do about this rising problem.
Valenzuela notes that in November, a known Proud Boy received 21 percent of the vote in a school board seat, and “a school board member within the same district, Tanya Kravchuk, has rejected funding for anti-bias training. Her reason? She’s worried the state’s curriculum will create bias against people with ‘deeply held religious beliefs,’ insisting that sections on gender do not ‘force teachers to violate their conscience.’”
These incidents occurred in San Juan Unified.
Valenzuela cites a recent series of articles from ProPublica, “Chaos at the School Board,” which she believes show a “scary trend.”
“Once considered tame, even boring, school board meetings have become culture-war battlegrounds in recent years,” the ProPublica series states. “On dozens of occasions, tensions have escalated into not just shouting matches and threats but also arrests and criminal charges.”
Indeed, Valenzuela argues, “What’s happening at San Juan is a warning bell for our region that we should all be taking very seriously.”
I don’t think I have to add to Davis readers that what’s happening in town is no isolated incident. It is a rise in extremist forces turned loose by the recent occupant of the White House that spilled over into what happened in Washington on January 6, 2021.
They are not just targeting the LGBTQ and trans communities, they are targeting the Jewish community, and really all of us.
As Valenzuela puts it, “We cannot allow hate and bigotry to go unanswered.”
This year has been a wake-up call in our community—we can no longer count on the Davis bubble to protect us and our kids from hate.
Martin Niemoller in Nazi Germany belatedly recognized the danger, failing to speak out when the Nazis came for “homosexuals” and eventually socialists, trade unionists and Jews.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me,” he warned.
We have tended to dismiss references to fascism and totalitarianism, believing they are hyperbole, but watch a video of January 6 again and ask yourself how far fetched it really would have been for it to have been worse.