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February 14, 2024 34 mins

Molly & Garrison talk about the group of extremely online white supremacists zoombombing city council meetings across the country.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Cool Zone Media.

Speaker 2 (00:08):
Hello, and welcome back to It Could Happen Here, your
favorite daily podcast about the studied dissolution of society as
we know it. I'm your guest host, Molly Conger, joined
once again by our friend Garrison.

Speaker 1 (00:18):
Hello. Happy to look at the abyss once again.

Speaker 2 (00:22):
Yeah, trying not to ruin your day, too bad today,
So Garrison, today, I want to talk to you about
some terrible guys that I know you're already pretty familiar with.
The Goham Defense League the g d L. The g
d L, there are sort of a loose network of
neo Nazi trolls, best known for their anti Semitic flyers,
headed up by a failed rapper named John Minnedeo who

(00:45):
calls himself Handsome Truth. Handsome Handsome Truth. So there's this
sort of core cast of characters in Minnedeo's orbit that
shows up in person, mostly in Florida and Georgia, but
the group's real strength is online. They have this d
centralized network of thousands of followers nationwide who are encouraged
to download and print the anti Semitic flyers and distribute

(01:06):
them in their area. It's not a new model, right,
like the clan has been doing this for decades, and
National Alliance was big into this in the early aughts.
But that's what they do right in the news every
few weeks, you know, your local news wherever it is
that you live. You know, somebody left these racist flyers
on everyone's front lawn. And I know you and I
have talked about doing an episode in the future about
the sort of counter productive responses to these in person demonstrations,

(01:29):
the flying and the banner drops. There's a new law
in Florida and a proposed law in Georgia that are
sort of allegedly aimed at countering anti Semitism, but are
going to have some sort of counterproductive knock on effects.
And I hope we can get to that at a
later date. But today I want to talk to you
about a little project some GDL members have going on
the side called the City Council Death Squad.

Speaker 1 (01:51):
Are they going you around in killing city council members?
Because that's kind of what it sounds like.

Speaker 2 (01:58):
It does sound like, that's kind of that's the energy here.
They haven't done that yet, yes, But Garrison, how would
you feel if I told you a former Juggalo calling
himself Scotty big Balls trying to trying to destroy the
thing I love most, which is civic engagement in municipal government.

Speaker 1 (02:18):
I have such complicated feelings of Juggalos.

Speaker 2 (02:20):
Oh god, No, I want to be clear. I'm not
slandering the Juggalo community here, right, Like mister big Ball's
got his hatchetman tattoo covered up with a big snake
holding a gun a couple of years ago, so he's
no longer God that there's a cool name for their community,
he's no longer a part of the Juggalo community. I
don't think the jugglos would buy this kind of behavior.

Speaker 1 (02:39):
Generally, not. They are kind of semi cool.

Speaker 2 (02:42):
No, I'm off for chicken hunting, I don't. I don't
think they abide. No, I by just by happenstance. You know,
the ICP is not my cup of tea. No, no, shade,
it's not my cup of tea. But I did see
them perform with the Lincoln Memorial a couple of years ago,
and it was the most polite crowd I've ever experienced
at a live music event. So it hats off to

(03:04):
the Juggalos. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Now, if you're a city
council meeting enthusiast like myself. You may already be aware
of the rash of racist zoom bombings disrupting meetings around
the country over the last nine months or so. Remote
participation in meetings became nearly ubiquitous during the pandemic, and
the opportunity to make a public comment without having to
devote an entire evening to sitting in an uncomfortable chair

(03:26):
at city hall has made civic engagement more accessible for
all kinds of people right, not just because of contagion,
but remote participation benefits everybody, like parents who are managing
a bedtime routine by the time the public hearing opens
at eight pm, or sure don't work in nine to five,
or people without reliable transportation. So it's been a boon
for local democracy, but it's also created a unique opportunity

(03:49):
for people who want to ruin that. So last year,
Scotty big Balls Mister big Balls, the online pseudonym for
a self described not ze named Harley Ray Petero Junior,
started a group he calls the City Council Death Squad.
The group organizes online to find government meetings, mainly city
and county council meetings all over the country that allow

(04:11):
public comment by a zoom. Then it coordinates those members
to sign up for speaking slots, crowding out actual community
members who are trying to speak on you know, like
actual matters of local concern. And when the members of
the group get through, the calls follow a couple of
predictable paths. Sometimes the caller just starts screaming slurs. Right,
It's just as soon as they connect, it's just screaming

(04:33):
the N word over and over and over and over
and over again until someone can hit the button to
cut it off. Sometimes they do what they call the
slow roll, where they start off trying to sound like
a real caller. You know, they'll say like, you know,
I have concerns about zoning in my neighborhood, or I,
you know, I think we should pay the police more,
and then it veers abruptly into some kind of bizarre
anti Semitic conspiracy theory about crime or nine to eleven

(04:55):
or advocating for public lynchings.

Speaker 1 (04:57):
Sure, yeah, yeah, yeah. They it's like, spend a few
minutes eating up the city council time and then just
curtail it with some unhinged ramble.

Speaker 2 (05:07):
Right, and then yell the slurs yes, yes, yes. And
Another favorite of the group is a call format where
they pretend to be gay or Jewish themselves and then
ascribe to themselves various traits associated with bigoted stereotypes of their.

Speaker 1 (05:21):
Okay, okay, yeah, yeah yeah.

Speaker 2 (05:23):
John Menedeo has participated a few times himself, and he
loves this one. He pretends to be a gay Jewish
person named Tammy and then says some pretty outrageous things.
I bet the callers give themselves inside joke names like
Rudy Hess or Sadie N word, which, when you say
it out loud, sounds like say the N word, so

(05:46):
it's like a Seymour Butts kind of thing. It's like
Bart calling most tavern except it's Nazis.

Speaker 1 (05:51):
Wow, very very clever, on the cutting edge of comedy. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (05:55):
Or they'll name themselves after a mass shooter, like Dylan
Rue for Andraspravic, or you know, sometimes it's like a
deep cut, like a more obscure killer whose name might
not arouse suspicion right off the bat, like Jim Adkisson,
a man who shot eight people at a Unitarian church
in Knoxville in two thousand and eight during a children's
production of the musical Annie, because he was angry about

(06:15):
the church's liberal teachings. So you know those good jokes.

Speaker 1 (06:21):
Yeah, this is all like kind of like old like
old school kind of chan humor. It's it's not even
that popular anymore because it's kind of just out of vogue.
You're kind of you're kind of outing yourself as like
a bit of like a not an actual boomer, but
like it's become a boomer fied this type of humor.
It's not really ah, this sort of thing that younger,

(06:42):
more hip neo Nazis are into. They've they have, they have,
they have moved on, they have they have other other
horizons of bad jokes.

Speaker 2 (06:53):
So ruining everybody's good time by shouting a racial slur
is hardly an innovation. But this particular operation has a
discernal origin. Point. In May of twenty twenty three, Petero,
that's mister big Balls, if you've forgotten already, and three
friends showed up in person to a Sacramento City council
meeting to show their support for Ryan Massano. If you're
from the Sacramento area, you'd probably know him. Masano a

(07:15):
former Proud Boy, with several failed runs for office under
his belt, already had a long history of being disruptive
in public meetings. In twenty eighteen, he's removed from chambers
during a Valejo City Council meeting after saying the city
was quote infested with homosexuals and refusing to be called
to order by the mayor. The meeting of the same
body in twenty twenty two, he was picked up and
carried out after refusing to end his remarks at the

(07:38):
end of his time. So in twenty twenty three, he's
attending every meeting of the Sacramento City Council. This has
been going on for almost two months. He shows up,
he gets up, he makes his homophobic, racist, and antisemitic remarks,
but he's keeping with the rules of the meeting and
they're letting him make his statements. But people aren't happy
about it. So activists are shooting to show up to
the meetings. People are showing up with banners, people are

(08:00):
booing him. People are showing up to counter this, and
so he puts out a call for backup. So at
this at this point that Petero shows up with two
masked associates and a man named Jeffrey Perine, who, like Massano,
was a proud boy with a failed school board run
to his name at that time. In twenty twenty three,
paren had recently been arrested outside the home of a

(08:20):
youth pastor after publicly calling for others to join him
in going to the pastor's home during a school board
meeting that had to be adjourned because of Parene's disruptive behavior.
So we're seeing a pattern emerging here, right at this point,
We've got two proud boys who keep getting kicked out
of meetings and failing to run for school board. These
are people who are seeing the value in kicking up

(08:42):
some kind of disturbance at a meeting.

Speaker 1 (08:44):
Yeah, and this was like during a time where school
board meeting disruptions were very popular. There was a lot
of far right influencers trying to convince their followers to
run for school boards. This was kind of a very
particular cultural moment in like twenty twenty two to twenty
twenty three.

Speaker 2 (09:03):
So they show up to this meeting to support Massano
and it doesn't go well. One of the guys throws
a hitler salute. People react angrily. There's a bit of
a scuffle, it devolves, and the council ends up going
into recess and clearing the chambers entirely. Everybody has to leave.
You just can't be in here too much yelling. Everybody's mad.
Nobody gets arrested, but everybody has to leave, and the

(09:24):
council ended up continuing the meeting without the public's presence.
So I think there was a hearing that night on
an ordinance involving homelessness that people had showed up to
speak on and they weren't allowed to do that. Now
council continues their business, but nobody can be there. And
Patera's alliance with Massano didn't last. They actually butted heads
almost immediately over optics. Massano preferred to make his long

(09:44):
winded speeches that, at least in his mind, were more
palatable to the listener and might more effectively spread his
message and potentially red pill the listeners. Who's actually angry
that Potero's troll forward tactic of just shouting slurs and
obscenities was actually resulting in avenues for public come being
closed off. In September of twenty twenty three, he wrote
either out of ignorance, or deliberate sabotage. The GDL has

(10:06):
no idea what they're doing. So he was mad, right
because he was doing this thing where every week he
was showing up to Megan's comment and because of the
different strategy of disruption that was getting harder for him. Masano,
for his part, continues his one man battle against the
Sacramento City Council. He's still doing that.

Speaker 3 (10:24):
Oh, okay, he's a lone wolf out there in Sacramento.

Speaker 2 (10:30):
But Petero saw the potential and trolling on a larger scale, okay,
almost immediately, he branched out. Over the next few months,
it developed into an organized trolling machine, targeting meetings across
the country, covering at least seventeen states, from Alaska to Maine, Idaho, Wyoming, Georgia, Virginia.
They're all over the place, often hitting the same city repeatedly,

(10:52):
and in some cases showing up in person with flyers
or banners either before or after the zoom bombing. After
targeting meeting in the city of Walnut Creek, California, the
group hung a racist banner in the area. Councilor Kevin
Wilk commented on the banner in the press and The
following week, the meeting was hit again, with members specifically
addressing wilk the locality's first Jewish city councilor, asking him

(11:14):
how he liked it. In a later stream, Petero laughed
about that personalized follow up, saying that pissed him off,
so I had to rub it in. After targeting the
city of Wooster, Massachusetts, the group didn't just flyer. They
mailed homophobic materials to the homes of several councilors, including
two nuen the state's first openly non binary elected official.

(11:37):
And it isn't even just regular city council meetings. Some
of the targeted meetings are incredibly boring governmental bodies like
the Morristown, New Jersey Board of Zoning Appeals.

Speaker 1 (11:46):
Oh wow.

Speaker 2 (11:48):
When Petero posted a clip of their racist calls into
that meeting, a group member posted the board chairs home
address and the replies. They've also and this doesn't even
fit the pattern. I think they just got the bug.
But they've posted several composition videos of the group disrupting
AA meetings.

Speaker 1 (12:08):
All right, that's interesting.

Speaker 2 (12:10):
I think I think they just got into the idea
of making praying phone calls. So they target addiction support
groups often geared towards members of the LGBTQ community.

Speaker 1 (12:21):
So okay, all right, yeah, just doing.

Speaker 2 (12:22):
Like homophobic attacks on people who are trying to get sober.

Speaker 1 (12:26):
Huh. They're just like finding any any meeting they can
and just spamming this thing.

Speaker 2 (12:32):
I don't know that they have other hobbies.

Speaker 1 (12:34):
Yes, this seems like a lot of time between keeping
up on the zoning board meetings and whatever local AA
call in there is. It seems seems to be a
bit uh childish and time consuming, right, I.

Speaker 2 (12:47):
Mean this is it takes a lot of time, and
Potero is pretty clear about that. You know, he runs
these online spaces where he's organizing. He's you know, making
lists of meetings that they should check out. He's complaining
about how, you know, sometimes you have to wait for
hours while just doing like regular government stuff. You have
to just like wait for it to be your turnedy
all the un word. It's time consuming.

Speaker 1 (13:06):
Do you know what isn't time consuming?

Speaker 2 (13:11):
Spending your harder in cash on the products and services
that support this show.

Speaker 1 (13:14):
That's right. We make it fast, easy and reliable by
listening to these products and services. Okay, we are back
talking about the Goyam Defense League, the GDL. So we

(13:37):
were just discussing how they were spending a lot of
time disrupting a lot of meetings with their little call
in campaign.

Speaker 2 (13:44):
Right, And it's tempting to dismiss this behavior as, oh,
it's just trolling, right, they're just trolls. Sure, so, like
this is so juvenile.

Speaker 1 (13:52):
How bad can it be? It's just people calling in, right, But.

Speaker 2 (13:54):
This has real world consequences, and they know that. They
revel in the reactions to their behavior. They're full aware
of and celebrate the destruction that it leaves in its wake.
When the city of Portland suspended virtual public comment, commenters
in the group called it a big effing win when
there's other media coverage of cities who have limited or
even ended public comment altogether. The headlines are posted triumphantly

(14:15):
in the group, often captured only with loll comments like
the calls will continue until the Jews leave and shut
it down for the win and never let them regroup
arrest no comfort given literal the replies to posts about
city after city ceding ground to this harassment.

Speaker 1 (14:32):
So it's not just causing little inconveniences, it is actually
shutting down city's ability to hold public comment and for
the public to actually speak on issues that are affecting
them and their city. Right.

Speaker 2 (14:45):
So, there have been meetings that, you know, when this occurs,
the meeting itself, that particular meeting just ends. Everyone just
leaves because they can't continue, or you know, the meeting
does continue, but they stop taking public comment, or they
change their policies and procedures to limit public comment moving forward.
So this is having real effects that are you know,

(15:06):
living on in these cities even after they've moved on.
Group members suggest using burner phones and fake number generators
to avoid being caught or blocked. Potero has written online
that he's been quote banned on multiple devices, but I
have some tactics to prevent them from stopping me. Potero
noted on a recent stream that the ADL's estimate of
over one hundred and thirty disruptions is short changing them,

(15:27):
insisting they've done at least three times that many, sometimes
hitting dozens of meetings per week, and they're not just
doing it right, it's not just the act of doing
it that is the thrill to them. They then cut
the clips and then post them online for everyone to enjoy.
They're cutting promos and making highlight reels of their favorite moments.
There are compilations grouped by genre of hate. Right, there's

(15:50):
videos combining all the best moments of homophobia, all the
best moments of anti semitism. There are these promo videos
set to that sort of ugly electronic fash wave music
that they all love so much.

Speaker 1 (16:00):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2 (16:01):
The promo videos have titles like this is our meeting
now or We're jacking your shit.

Speaker 1 (16:05):
So these are being shared on like like bitchew and
Odyssey and Telegram.

Speaker 2 (16:09):
I'm guessing yeah, they're they're you know, GDL, They're on
They're on every platform that's opened to people like them, right, Okay,
and following that GDL model, right, they're they're posting these
these videos and getting money. They're accepting donations to continue
doing this. And then on the anniversary of Krystall Knocked,

(16:29):
they targeted a planning commission in the Crescent City, California,
entitled the video CCDs goes Crystall Knocked on Crescent City. Right,
So it's it's just a joke, right, They're not really
doing Christall Knocked, but they're using the language of this
sort of genocidal violence.

Speaker 1 (16:46):
And it's like monetized. They're like making money off of it.

Speaker 2 (16:50):
They are making making those donos, as they say it.
After a recent ADL article about the operation, Patero posted,
fuck the ADL. We'll give those caseler something to covetch about.
In twenty twenty four, and his wife Haley reposted that,
adding you think he's playing. He lives for this. They
don't work. They really do live for this.

Speaker 1 (17:12):
It does sound like this is like the most important
thing happening in their life, which is one quite sad.
That also shows that they have a lot of time
to dedicate to pulling off stuff like this.

Speaker 3 (17:22):
Time that they should be dedicating to parenting. Honestly, Well,
I don't know if you want them around their kids. Honestly,
the more time they spend away from their children is
probably better.

Speaker 2 (17:34):
God damn. During his zoo bombing in October, an official
in Saucelito, California voiced support for just cutting off the
calls over objections from other members of council that this
could get them sued, saying he would quote take the
lawsuit if these people can even get organized enough to
sue us. And while the group has made no progress
on actually filing any legal action there or anywhere else.

(17:55):
They haven't forgotten it. Just last week the group expressed
an interest in seeking some kind of retribution for that comment,
saying they may need a little visit, and the group
is raising money to start traveling to meetings in person.
A fundraiser on the platform of choice for right wing extremists,
give Send Go, has already raised one thousand dollars in
donations to fund travel and lodging for the group members

(18:15):
to travel to city council meetings for in person disruptions
on their weekly live streams. Viewers can donate directly in
the stream. On the stream, Potero thanks viewers for donations,
often in the amount of fourteen dollars and eighty eight cents.

Speaker 1 (18:28):
Yeah that makes sense.

Speaker 2 (18:30):
Oh yeah, they they live for the memes, reminding them
that every donation goes directly towards funding their IRL activism,
getting them offline and inter real life traveling around the
country to engage in racial harassment in person. He also
says the donations fund a side project called postcard Waffen
the Nazeeni Way.

Speaker 1 (18:48):
Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait.

Speaker 3 (18:52):
Say that one bird time just a little slower postcard waffen.
They love to add postcard waffen. They love to add
waffen to right, that's just the German word for weapon.
So this, this is weaponized mailings, and this is the
nickname they've given to the work of mailing hateful materials
directly to the homes of the elected officials who preside
over the meetings they disrupt. This seems like a sort

(19:14):
of targeted harassment kind of campaign.

Speaker 1 (19:17):
Sure, target harassment, intimidation. There's some with the other like mentions.
You know, it's like veiled threats. These types of neo
Nazis are not averse to actually doing violence on people.
So yeah, there's there's a there's like a a pleasant
threat implied with these with this, with this sort of
rhetoric and activity, and.

Speaker 2 (19:37):
Because the decentralized nature of the GDL, and I think
this is something we can talk about in a later
episode about kind of what they're up to these days.
Is they don't have communication with or control over all
of the people who are consuming this content. So they
may not plan to follow up with these people in
a manner that would be criminal, but they're encouraging people

(19:58):
to think that that's an option and that sure has ramifications. Sure,
so this isn't just annoying prank calls. It's an organized
effort to ruin local democracy, to make meetings unproductive and unbearable,
to intimidate and humiliate local government employees and elected officials,
to make your city council chambers and intimidating an uncomfortable
place for you, closing off that avenue for you to

(20:18):
address and engage with your local government, and to take
away options for actually engaging with local government by forcing
cities to limit public comment. And we can't sede that
ground to.

Speaker 1 (20:27):
Them, ah man, that is I mean, I don't know.
There's just been so many instances with city council meetings
and various other kind of these big public forms, especially
school board meetings, where like they are like discussing extremely
important stuff around like trans people and forming policies that
impact people. And I know a lot of people do

(20:49):
actually end up going out to these and talking about
their experiences and why proposed laws or ordinances would be
so harmful, and just removing that option, whether or not
you believe in like the elect oral process, tmoving removing
that option from people to actually speak on their own
experiences does have like real, real consequences.

Speaker 2 (21:09):
Even if, even if you're not a big believer in
it being a meaningful political action to engage with your
local government. I think we can all agree that it's
not okay for Nazis to make it unsafe for anyone
to do that. Yeah, you know, who won't seed ground
to the Nazis trying to take over your local school board?

Speaker 1 (21:28):
The products and services sets the forth this podcast, I hope.
So it depends capitalism is uh, is quite strong. But
we'll see how this develops. Okay, we are back. So

(21:51):
this is this is kind of depressing, Molly. What what?

Speaker 2 (21:54):
Uh huh? What is to be done?

Speaker 1 (21:58):
What is to be done?

Speaker 2 (21:59):
Garrison? Yeah, So unfortunately a lot of the obvious solutions
here are bad ones. Right. The response that a lot
of cities have had is that, well, they're just going
to eliminate remote public comment altogether. You just can't participate
remotely anymore, which.

Speaker 1 (22:11):
Hurts people who are like disabled, hurts people who have
tough things with scheduling parents, people who work at certain hours.

Speaker 2 (22:18):
Yeah yeah, yeah, Like most people can't spend six hours
sitting at city hall on a Monday night. Most people can't,
and so having remote participation was really it opened up
local democracy to people with all kinds of life situations, right,
And that's what happened here in my own city of Charlottesville.
CCDs targeted us last October, and in response, the mayor
eliminated remote participation in all meetings. We didn't get to

(22:43):
revisit that. That's just how it works now, So they've
moved on. But now my entire city of over fifty
thousand people lives with the consequences of that action, and
we're left with a less accessible local democracy. They'd rather
prevent anyone from calling in than have to deal with
deciding whether they can do anything about it when someone
abuses that process. And there's some really basic steps that

(23:03):
cities can take right off the bat, like without even
overthinking it or getting into the legal complications of the
First Amendment. Cities like Lynwood, Washington responded to their ccdas
zoom bombing by adding a few basic layers of security
to their virtual meetings, like requiring commenters to sign up
the day before, so this group is organized in a
private telegram chat and so like one person gets into

(23:23):
a meeting and just drops the link into the chat,
and so everyone just clicks that link. But if you
make it so everyone has to have a unique sign
in link that they signed up for with a real
email address the day prior, that makes a little bit
harder to coordinate a dog pile. Sure you know, it
isn't hard to make a fake or temporary email address
to sign up to get the link, but if sometimes
just adding one extra step is discouraging enough that they'll

(23:46):
pick somebody else this week. But this behavior is escalating,
right and making it a little bit harder to get
into the zoom isn't going to solve the problem. It's
going to keep happening. And you can only make a
public meeting so secure without actually locking out the public.
Elected officials are understandably concerned about the legal ramifications of
dealing with these kinds of calls. With some exceptions, they

(24:09):
can't prevent someone from speaking based only on the content
of the speech. I actually found a two thousand and
six letter. I guess in two thousand and six, the
La City Council asked their city attorney, I need to
do a little research on what was going on in
two thousand and six in La. But the LA City
council asked the city attorney, can we make a rule
that people can't say racial slurs in here?

Speaker 1 (24:28):
Which seems like an okay rule, Like, I don't know.

Speaker 2 (24:33):
The answer was no. Legally, you can't limit speech based
on its content, right, because these are public forums put
on by the government. I mean, it's what's called a
designated public forum. But we don't. They can't limit speech
based on its content, right, But what they can do
is have rules of decorum. Their city attorney pulled some
language directly from a Ninth Circuit Court opinion that's in California,

(24:56):
so it's a federal court of appeals that covers that
part of California. White versus City of Norwalk, and that
decision upheld the city ordinance that authorized the legislative body
to remove individuals who uttered quote personal, impertinent, slanderous, or
profane remarks if the remarks disrupted, disturbed, or otherwise impeded

(25:16):
the conduct of the meeting. So it's not just that
your remarks were nasty, it's that your behavior was disruptive.
The way that these remarks were delivered was interfering with
the conduct of the meeting. So the meeting is disrupted
because council is prevented from accomplishing its business in a
reasonably efficient manner. The court further wrote, indeed, such conduct
may interfere with the rights of other speakers, and that's

(25:38):
what's happening here, right that these disruptions are not only
not your right, you don't have a right to disrupt
the meeting, but that behavior also fundamentally infringes on everyone
else's rights to have the meeting. It keeps the meeting
from being conducted, and it's interfering with the conduct of
the government's business. So if they open a public forum,
anyone can speak in the public forum and cut them

(26:00):
off because of the content of their speech. But that
doesn't mean there's no legal way to put limits on
public comment. If the rule is content neutral and serves
a legitimate government interest, the government can impose some restrictions
on your speech, right like requiring a permit for a
parade is a limit on speech, or saying you can't
yell in a courtroom is a limit on your speech.
But it's not a violation of your First Amendment rights

(26:21):
to say you can't disrupt a trial. But more importantly,
and the risk of getting too boring right, Like a
meeting is not a sidewalk there is. This is not
just any public place where you're speaking. This is a
meeting where business is being conducted. There's a legitimate and
compelling government interest in the ability to conduct the meeting,
and so the rules that they can make in this

(26:43):
space can vary state by state. Some states do or
don't allow you to limit speakers to residents, or they
can or can't limit the topics that are germane. So
it's going to vary a little bit. But the courts
have repeatedly upheld, not just in the Norwalk case, the
ability of a council to adopt a content neutral rule
and use that rule to cut off or remove speakers

(27:06):
who are disruptive and honest, I have to say, I
think any city attorney worthist Sault knows this. This is
day one stuff. If your whole job, well not your
whole job, but your job on Monday nights or whenever
the meeting is is to provide legal advice to a
city council on how they're conducting their business. You know
this because disruptive behavior during a meeting isn't some brand

(27:26):
new phenomenon, but It's kind of remarkable what I watched
like a hundred clips of this happening, right and over
and over and over again. You see these city attorneys
saying like, oh, well, we're powerless here, we're powerless here,
we don't want to get sued. There's nothing we can do,
and that's not true and they know that.

Speaker 1 (27:42):
Yeah. I mean, I've seen people get escorted out of
chambers for being disruptive in city council meetings before. Like
they it happens relatively frequently. It's not like an uncommon,
brand new occurrence.

Speaker 2 (27:57):
Right, I mean, I've seen that discretion applied appropriately and fascistically, right, Like, absolutely,
it happens, but over and over and over again in
these situations, you see these city attorneys the city council saying, like,
I guess we just have to let them do it.
A commenter in one of the Sacramento meetings from last
summer actually pointed out that, you know, she was saying
to her city council, you had no hesitation removing black

(28:20):
members of the public from this room when they were
angry that your cops murdered Stefan Clark. So why are
you so nervous about infringing on the free speech rights
of literal Nazis. Like someone who's just in here screaming
the N word, why is that worthy of more breathing room?
And something you know, as a resident of the city

(28:40):
of Charlottesville who watches our local government pretty carefully, something
we found over and over again here is that if
fear of litigation is your starting point for making decisions
on how to govern, you're going to make cowardly, dangerous,
stupid decisions every time, and you're probably going to get
sued anyway. So make the choice to protect people. Get

(29:01):
good legal advice, sure, consult with your city attorney, consult
the case law. Don't be reckless. But if you're faced
with the opportunity to make a decision that protects people,
a decision that serves the public good, a decision that
aligns with the values you claim to hold, but might
result in someone filing a lawsuit against you that they're
not going to win anyway, don't err on the side
of shielding yourself from nuisance litigation at the expense of

(29:23):
the public. Don't just look at us in shrug. Your
hands are not tied here. And if you're not comfortable
making that kind of decision, get off the diis. I mean,
I'm not a city attorney, but that would be my advice, right,
And so again, I think the bottom line here is
that we can't see this ground. The end result here
can't be well, local government just isn't a place where

(29:45):
we can safely and meaningfully engage with elected officials on
the issues that matter. That can't be the answer here.
Don't wait until this is happening where you live to
react to this, right like, it could happen here. It
is happening in a lot of places. You know, if
you're inclined to do so, you know, show up, engage,
speak your mind on local issues. Don't wait for your

(30:06):
city hall to become a battleground to show up to
counter right wing influence, right like, don't just react to reactionaries.
Stake out that ground now, that's our space. Right. Make
it clear that people are engaged and that they insist
on their right to engage, so that your city council
can't say, well, people aren't really making public comments anyway,
we just won't have it. And let make sure that

(30:28):
they know that you will not accept the death of
local democracy at the hands of some Weasley paradox of
tolerance bullshit about letting Nazis dominate our spaces.

Speaker 1 (30:39):
I know there's been other people who've been like talking
about and pointing out these instances of GDL zoom bombing
and shutting down these meetings, but there certainly has been
less discussion of this being a deliberate tactic that GDL
is doing specifically to actually like shutting down the democratic process,
like it has been so so focused on just like

(31:01):
the trolling and the spreading of any Semitic rhetoric, which
are big problems. But I think there's been a little
bit less of a focus on actually looking at this
as a deliberate tactic being employed to remove people's ability
to engage democratically in the city or school board or
wherever they live. And I think viewing it as a

(31:21):
deliberate tactic like that like you've been talking about, but
both gets like a better look at how these neo
Nazis are trying to organize. But also it's a more
holistic approach towards why is this happening, And it can
allow you to look at this as more of a
tactical decision less than just kind of random trolling slurs XD,

(31:43):
which it can be kind of reduced to, which is
at the very least incomplete way of looking at this phenomenon,
if not just kind of wholly inaccurate.

Speaker 2 (31:52):
I mean, I don't want to give them too much credit, right, Like,
they didn't have a brainstorming session where they were thinking
about ways to contribute to the death of democracy. I
think that's just sort of a phenomenon that occurred as
a result of their actions that they then saw and appreciated, right,
So it's not that they don't understand it, but I
don't think they intended it from the outset. But at

(32:14):
this point it's hard to deny that that is something
they're doing on purpose.

Speaker 1 (32:17):
And that's just been an interesting trend with the GDL specifically,
especially considering the legislation trying to crack down on political flying,
which we might talk about at a later date. But yeah,
it's been a interesting watching the GDLs as political force
that yes, is like annoying and bad in the rhetoric
they spread, but also they've had this interesting ability to

(32:40):
just either affect legislation or like shut down people's ability
to engage with politics in their local area in a
few notable ways.

Speaker 2 (32:49):
So it's important to sort of sit for a minute
before you react to people like this, Right, Like you
were talking about that legislation that's going to end up
infringing on a lot of people's political speech. Right, can't
just react to the troll. You have to sort of
think about the context in which this is occurring and
make a reasonable choice about how to react so you
don't end up giving them what they want, basically, right,

(33:12):
because they love the attention. They love the attention. Every
time they do this, it ends up on the local news.
People are talking about it, people are repeating their message,
and you don't need to give them that.

Speaker 1 (33:24):
Well, thank you Molly for putting this together. This has
been very enlightening, if slightly upsetting, but that is kind
of it's kind that's kind of the entire bit we do.

Speaker 2 (33:33):
Here, that sort of the show.

Speaker 1 (33:35):
Huh, where can people find your work online?

Speaker 2 (33:40):
You can find me on Twitter. I will never call
it x socialist dog mom. And in keeping with the
spirit of this episode, most of what I use my
Twitter account for is live tweeting my local city government meetings.
I've been doing that for god seven years now. So
this is a subject that's near and dear to my heart.
I love engaging with municipal government, fantastic. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (34:03):
I've attended more city council meetings the last year than
I have ever before in my life, and it has
certainly been an experience. A lot of wacky, wacky and
unusual things happen in city council meetings.

Speaker 2 (34:17):
Thank you Garrison so much for joining me today, and
hopefully we can bring the listeners something even worse someday soon.

Speaker 1 (34:25):
Yeah. Yeah, stay tuned for more breaking Goiam Defense League
News fucking dark.

Speaker 2 (34:36):
It could Happen here as a production of cool Zone Media.

Speaker 1 (34:39):
For more podcasts from cool Zone Media, visit our website
cool zonemedia dot com or check us out on the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
You can find sources for It could Happen Here, updated
monthly at cool zonemedia dot com slash sources.

Speaker 2 (34:53):
Thanks for listening

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