Police handcuff black woman at San Diego Democratic Party meeting, which ends in disarray
San Diego’s local Democratic Party leaders are under fire and facing calls to resign after a meeting fell into disarray and a black woman was handcuffed by police.
Officers were called to the party’s Central Committee meeting on Tuesday evening at a Kearny Mesa union hall after as many as 20 protesters showed up to the closed-door meeting, including some who made it past private security and into a conference hall — at least one with a bullhorn.
Aeiramique Blake, director of a group called Generation Justice, was handcuffed and detained and later released without any charges.
Blake, who was there to protest how the party treated a black political group at a recent fundraiser dinner and a proposal to create a pro-Israel club, said she waged a small sit-in at the meeting’s entrance, but later got up and maneuvered her way past a security guard and into the meeting room.
Facebook Live videos show protesters yelling into the meeting room as people milled around. Some talked with party officials and others spoke with a security guard.
A security guard later identified Blake to police officers, who put her in handcuffs. Blake said she has a working relationship with senior police officers and mentioned their names while she was detained.
James Elia, an Assembly candidate and Central Committee member, started talking to police about releasing Blake.
“They specifically told me that security called and said that someone was assaulted,” Elia said. “I talked to security and they were obviously upset, too, but I was able to get them to drop the charges.”
Blake was released, but questioned why she was even detained in the first place.
“You don’t just arrest the first black woman you see, you wait and figure it out,” she said over the phone. “But now that you’re about to get in trouble with your boss, you’re going to try and figure it out.”
Officer Billy Hernandez, a spokesman for the San Diego Police, said the department received a call at 7:13 p.m. to go to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 1125.
“We were there pretty much to keep the peace,” he said. “Nobody was arrested.”
Some protesters — including Blake — were upset with how members of a black political organization were seated at table at the back of a ballroom at a recent formal dinner after they wore buttons and pins condemning sexual misconduct.
Others were there to oppose a plan to create a new Democrats for Israel political club that they felt had a polarizing name that marginalized Palestinians. Others were also there to protest how the party has addressed allegations of sexual harassment, including accusations against labor leader and Democratic ally Mickey Kasparian.
On Tuesday night, it reached a tipping point and further revealed problems with the party’s leadership, said Sara Kent, a Democratic activist who was at the meeting.
“This stuff is just boiling over because nobody is willing to address the core issues as they come to them,” she said.
Jessica Hayes, the party’s chairwoman, said that many of the protesters had reason to be upset, but their approach was improper.
“They had very valid points, there was nothing wrong with what they had to say,” Hayes said over the phone. “It was how they said it.”
Mark Lane, a political consultant who helped organize the protests, said Hayes should resign because she is unwilling to consider other Democrats’ concerns, and tries to silence critics.
“She has a history of trying to control and quash dissent, and that’s what she did again last night,” he said.
Hayes dismissed his and other people’s demands.
“He’s not a fan,” she said of Lane.
Some protesters were supporting Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club after the group was moved from a front-row table at the party’s Roosevelt Dinner fundraiser after some of the club’s members wore buttons and signs condemning sexual misconduct.
Hayes said she didn’t mind the silent protests but said that political clubs are always put in the back of the ballroom to leave space for major donors in the front.
Others were there to protest mistreatment of women in politics and what they believe is a series of insufficient responses by local party leaders. And another group was there to protest a plan to create a new club called “Democrats for Israel.” They felt that it was an affront to Palestinians and suggested it be renamed “Jewish Democrats.”
“They called us obstinate and anti-semites,” Lane said. “I’m Jewish, by the way.”
Of the protesters, he said, “It was 95 percent women of color and teenagers of color. They were Palestinians, they were blacks, they were different Muslims who aren’t Palestinian. And we all know what happens when cops are called on people of color.”
The incident is the latest in an ongoing conflict between more traditional parts of the Democratic establishment and a younger progressive wing.
Marylin Riley and Robert Grand, a wife and husband who are on the Central Committee, said that the protesters were loud and disruptive to a point where they were working against their own interests.
“They were just extremely intimidating and had bullhorns and were shoving things in people’s faces,” Riley said.
She’s been involved in politics since the early 1960s and made her career in Sacramento and said that the way the protesters operated on Tuesday night is not the way to get things done.
Riley said that there are a lot of newcomers to the party who want immediate change, but don’t want to go through the tedious process of canvassing door-to-door or serving on committees or clubs to make an incremental but steady difference.
“I’m really tired of these newcomers to the party...these people who have never done anything for the Democratic party at the grassroots level are now attacking the party and saying how corrupt we are,” she said.
Many of the Central Committee members are sympathetic to their causes, Grand said, noting that he too is Jewish. Grand predicted that the vote to create a new Israel club would have failed had the matter not been postponed amid the ruckus.
“If you want somebody to listen to you, or do something to you ask for, preventing them from doing it is not the way to get it done,” he said.
Hayes said that she is thrilled that there is a new wave of young people who are passionate about politics, but said they will get more done and find more allies if they change their methods. They could have reached out to her ahead of the meeting and been added to the agenda and been heard in an official way, she said.
“How are our young people going to learn how to come together and get the change and work through it?” she said.
Kent said that the party’s officers should try to redeem themselves before their terms expire early next year, but they should not be re-elected.
And Elia said that the entire party is responsible for Tuesday’s night’s flare-up.
“For me, it was an eye-opening experience,” he said. “We need to have some tough conversations.”
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