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ADL’s Shaver grapples with public meeting disruptions

The latest disruptions of public meetings by anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian groups have spiraled at an astounding rate. The Anti-Defamation League reports that since August, 2023, more than 135 incidents have been reported nationwide.

“Most of those incidents have been when local government meetings were disrupted with anti-Semitic conspiracies and rhetoric,” said Jeremy Shaver, senior associate regional director of the ADL.

That includes a long list from the Mountain States Region. 

In addition to the Feb. 12 incident in Lakewood from an anti-Semitic group, pro-Palestinian factions have disrupted the Denver City Council on Feb. 12 and Nov. 27, 2023. 

Other recent proceedings affected by hate groups include the Wheat Ridge City Council in Nov., 2023, the Laramie, Wyo., City Council in Oct., 2023, and the Durango City Council in Jan., 2024.

“The incident in Lakewood is like some of the others,” said Shaver. 

“In Lakewood, at least somewhere between three to five individuals called in and hinted that they were going to speak to the topic of the evening, and then immediately launched into anti-Semitic rhetoric, conspiracies, blaming Jews for all kinds of different things. 

“That’s what we have seen in Wheat Ridge and Durango and across the country. 

“It is a coordinated effort by an anti-Semitic group to particularly take advantage of virtual or remote comment to push their anti-Semitic conspiracies.” 

While the Denver City Council incidents were engineered by local pro-Palestinian groups, the ADL believes that many of the other disruptions regionally and nationally have been steered by the anti-Semitic group, the Goyim Defense League.

“The Goyim Defense League in California created a new social media account called City Council Death Squad to put up video of people disrupting these public meetings,” Shaver said. 

“We always are cautious about naming them, because they take advantage of this to fundraise, and they love the media. 

“We very much know many of the individuals involved are associated with this group. 

“It’s the same anti-Semitic group that’s been responsible for anti-Semitic flyering across the metro Denver area.

“It should not be surprising to see extremists taking advantage of opportunities to share their conspiracies and rhetoric. It’s really unfortunate that our civic life is impacted by this. 

“Because it’s an increasing trend, it’s important for local governments to be prepared to talk about this issue and have a plan for when it happens.”

Part of Shaver’s duties with the ADL include working with governmental entities on how to combat the rise of disruptions by hate groups in public forums. The ADL has created a toolkit for town and city councils.

“It emphasizes four points,” Shaver said. 

“One is to look at available time, place and manner restrictions that are content neutral. City councils, county governments, even state legislative bodies, can look at how much time they provide each person for a comment. Is it one minute, two minutes, three minutes? 

“You can put some restrictions on that to try to limit the amount of time that somebody can speak their very vile anti-Jewish hate.  

“The second thing that we encourage local governments to do is to be prepared to talk about this issue, and have a plan for when it happens.

“Third, we encourage governments to, in the moment, speak out against the hate. Local governments and local government officials can exercise their own free speech rights to say, ‘We do not condone that rhetoric. It is not part of our community’s values.’ 

“One thing that Lakewood did last week was the day after the meeting when anti-Jewish extremists took over comment period. They did issue a really strong statement condemning anti-Semitism. That’s a real important step that municipalities can take. 

“Fourth is to really look at opportunities for education and healing after this happens for targeted communities.”

In the last episode at Denver City Council, council members felt they were prepared. 

When protesting voices became too frequent to the extent that there were multiple disruptions, the council members simply walked out of the chamber and went about the city’s business away from the chamber, virtually.

It remains to be seen if that is truly a solution.

Copyright © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Staff Writer | [email protected]

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