Resident urges council to adopt Sinanyan-related anti-hate measure

A Glendale resident called on the City Council this week to adopt a proclamation against all hate speech, hate crimes and bullying in the city in response to the silence that's followed Councilman Zareh Sinanyan's apology for writing threatening and vulgar comments on YouTube before he was elected.

Grey James, who has lived in Glendale for 10 years, said although Sinanyan apologized for the comments after being elected, there has been little discussion since about the issue. And when some public speakers complained about Sinanyan's comments at his first council meeting after being elected in April, Mayor Dave Weaver told them to “can it.”

Quickly sweeping the issue under the rug and admonishing critics created a dynamic in which people who are different may be afraid to speak up in front of the council, James said.

“The reality is there is a confessed racist on City Council and, so far, Glendale is a city that supports hate speech,” the small-business manager said during a City Council meeting Tuesday.

As a person who identifies as “gender queer,” James said he knows what it's like to be discriminated against and belittled.

“If you don't fit the scheme and you also live in Glendale, yes, people have these experiences,” he said. “It's not like we're getting beat up every day; it's the nuances of everyday interaction.”

Councilwoman Laura Friedman supported the idea of writing a proclamation against hate speech during the meeting and Councilmen Ara Najarian, Zareh Sinanyan and Frank Quintero all said they would support it as well after the meeting. “I support it wholeheartedly,” Sinanyan said.

Mayor Dave Weaver did not return a request for comment.

Sinanyan's comments, which were written over several years, were first revealed in March and included racist and sexist references mostly geared at Armenia's geopolitical enemies. The comments, at one point, were written under a pseudonym, but then were linked to Sinanyan.

Before the election, the council discussed booting Sinanyan off a city commission, but decided against it. Sinanyan said at the time that the comments do not reflect his values. After winning election, he admitted to writing the comments and apologized from the dais.

Najarian said the proclamation could touch on many aspects of human rights, including bullying, intimidation, ethnic bigotry and discrimination in general.

“Hopefully, people understand that we're against that sort of bigotry, bullying and discrimination, but it certainly doesn't hurt to go on the record and have the resolution clear for the record,” Najarian said.

James said he knows that the proclamation may not have a direct impact on how people act, but it wouldn't be the first time the council passed a mostly ceremonial resolution, such as proclaiming October as Filipino American Month or supporting a Los Angeles River revitalization plan for projects outside the city's borders.

“I understand this is a symbolic gesture. I still think it's a necessary symbolic gesture,” James said.

Before the City Council can review such a proclamation, at least two members or the mayor must request that a discussion on the matter be put on the agenda.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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