Silver Lake neighborhood rep resigns over Facebook rants

Woman who criticized undocumented immigrants, Mexicans on Facebook resigns from Silver Lake council

A neighborhood council in Silver Lake is looking to replace a member who was forced to resign last week amid public backlash for several Facebook screeds that some said were racist.

In the posts, since deleted from Facebook, then-Silver Lake Neighborhood Council member Karen Speitel said that she’s been in L.A. “a loooong time and the distruction [sic] I see all over is from Mexicans. All other immigrants make pockets of this city nice. Go To Chinatown. It’s clean and fun.”

The comment was captured in a photo published by CBS2. The blog Eastsider LA captured a separate rant in which she wrote: “All illegals should have to work like slaves for free for every single legal citizen who came here the right way.” She went on to describe undocumented immigrants as “sneaky, lawless dregs” who turn the United States into “the same third world nation they came from.”

The comments were part of an exchange with other people on Facebook, said Seamus Garrity, the council's vice chair. Speitel resigned from the council in a letter to the board on Thursday and sent an apology letter to CBS2, which published it.

Speitel runs a local Pilates studio and has been receiving criticism on the Facebook page ever since her comments went public. She responded to one online saying, “I feel terrible for causing this much pain and will be reaching out to the community in some sort of way to try to prove to you that I never meant to hurt anyone the way I have. And to try and do something to help heal even just a tiny bit of the pain I’ve caused. If you can ever forgive me I will be very grateful to you.”

The Times reached out to Speitel on Monday for comment on the Facebook posts following her 9:30 a.m. class. She tearily declined to comment. The studio has been open two years this month and is getting a rash of angry responses on its Yelp page.

Some said the comments were particularly offensive and out of touch given the area’s history as a Latino neighborhood that had increasingly been gentrifying and seeing more working-class residents priced out.

“I know people have different opinions on immigration but, in my personal opinion, they were dehumanizing. Grotesque,” Garrity said. “If I were in her position, I would’ve apologized immediately and tried to demonstrate how my comments were misconstrued. And then I would’ve never showed up again.”

Initially, in a letter to the board before it's meeting May 9, Speitel said she was not going to resign. It was only after criticism at the meeting and media coverage, that she relented and gave up her seat. She let the board know in an email May 7 that she had stepped down, Garrity said.

Though Speitel’s former colleagues condemned her comments, some of them say the backlash has gone too far.

"I think there's a difference between supporting what someone says versus supporting their right to say (even egregious, and ill conceived) comments.  We don't get the ability to set what/how something is determined to be offensive, so that's a consideration for anyone posting on the Internet,” said Matthew Desario, a Neighborhood Council member. “I agree that Karen's apology was not ideal, and while I believe her comments were ignorant and hurtful, the price she is paying is severe.  Imagine if any of us messed up for 45 seconds and everyone you worked with for years abandoned you, your only source of income was threatened, and you faced eviction from your lease and expulsion from your business by your partners.”

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