Activist faces 18 felony counts for allegedly threatening Bakersfield City Council

Riddhi Patel at a recent Bakersfield City Council meeting.
(City of Bakersfield)

A Kern County activist is facing years in jail after authorities charged her with 18 felony counts for allegedly making terrorist threats against the Bakersfield City Council, the latest civic body to be roiled by unrest amid calls for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Riddhi Patel, 28, who grew up in Bakersfield and was until Monday working as the economic development coordinator for a local nonprofit, was arrested after public statements she made last week on the topic of a cease-fire and on metal detectors at City Hall.


3:22 p.m. April 15, 2024This story was updated to include the decision by the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment to terminate Riddhi Patel’s employment.

On Monday, Patel’s employer, the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, announced that officials there had “made the decision to terminate Riddhi Patel.” The statement added that officials at the nonprofit “unequivocally condemn any threats of violence or unethical behavior.”


Among her comments, Patel said the council members were such “horrible human beings” that “Jesus probably would have killed you himself.” Later, she expressed hope that oppressed people might “bring the guillotine.” She concluded her public statements by saying: “We’ll see you at your house. We’ll murder you.”

In response, Mayor Karen Goh at first calmly called for the next speaker to come to the lectern, and then paused and said: “Ms. Patel, that was a threat, what you said at the end. So the officers are going to escort you out and take care of that.”

On Friday, Patel appeared in court and tearfully pleaded not guilty. Neither she nor her representatives could be reached for comment.

Video from the Bakersfield City Council chambers quickly went viral, zipping across X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok and picked up by Fox News and newspapers in India.

The mayor declined to comment, telling a local television station that “since the incident is under investigation, it’s not appropriate for me to offer comments.”

Vice Mayor Andrae Gonzales, however, told KGET-TV Channel 17 that the exchange was “deeply concerning” and “completely inappropriate.” “The city can’t function during a public council meeting if we’re being continuously disrupted,” he said.


Patel’s comments came as activists have been lobbying the City Council about both a resolution calling for an Israeli cease-fire in Gaza and about increased security measures and rules around public speaking at council meetings.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza in retaliation for a surprise Oct. 7 cross-border attack, during which Hamas militants killed more than 1,100 people and kidnapped 250, officials say. The war has dragged on for nearly six months and killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

Patel, wearing a colorful dress and speaking calmly, addressed both issues during the meeting’s public comment period.

In calling for a cease-fire, she said she expected that council members would not support it because they were “horrible human beings and Jesus probably would have killed you himself.”

She added that council members didn’t care about oppression in Gaza because “you don’t care about oppression occurring here” and then listed a number of problems in Kern County, including poor wages and waves of evictions.

She referenced an Indian holiday, Chaitra Navratri, and said that some in “the global south” believe in “violent revolution against their oppressors. I hope one day somebody brings the guillotine and kills all you mother—-.”


After those comments, Goh said: “Thank you.” Then she called for the next speaker.

The United Liberation Front, the local group calling for a cease-fire, publicly condemned Patel’s comments later that night. “It does not represent those of us in the community who continue to show up and exercise our civic duty.”

Fifteen minutes later, Patel again rose from her seat in the audience to address the council on a second issue involving metal detectors and increased security at City Hall, which she and others believe could stifle public participation. The issue has been a hot-button one in Bakersfield for years; in 2021, groups including the ACLU of Southern California protested the council’s “rules of public decorum” that were instituted during Black Lives Matter protests to place some limits on public speakers. The groups called the rules “overbroad” and said they could violate the 1st Amendment.

Patel, whose public biography says she has a degree in neuroscience and enjoys “holding elected officials accountable” as well as movies, sports and time outdoors with her family and friends, accused the council of trying to criminalize members of the public who protest their policies.

“You guys wanna criminalize … with metal detectors,” she said. “We’ll see you at your house. We’ll murder you.”

No one on the council appeared to react, and Patel returned to her seat before police removed her.

The Kern County district attorney could not be reached for comment but in a statement to said that charges against Patel include 10 counts of threatening with the intent to terrorize a public official: five City Council members, the mayor, the city clerk, the assistant city clerk, the city attorney and the city manager.


She also faces eight counts of threatening specific public officials. That includes all but two of those at the meeting. The district attorney told that Councilmembers Bob Smith and Eric Arias “are not considered victims because they did not feel threatened.”