Almost three weeks after Thousand Oaks Mayor Bob Engler said white supremacists are not welcome in the city, a small group of them returned Saturday for a second “banner drop” over Highway 101.
They displayed banners over the side of the Borchard Road overpass in Newbury Park to oncoming traffic. The banners had wording that the Anti-Defamation League describes as rhetoric associated with white supremacists.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Capt. Eduardo Malagon said Sunday the department received several calls starting about 11 a.m. Saturday about the group. But no deputies were sent to the location because none of the reports were of a criminal nature and there were no safety concerns, he said.
The demonstration mirrored a Feb. 12 white supremacist “banner drop” on the same overpass.
In response to the first demonstration, the Thousand Oaks City Council on Feb. 22 adopted an anti-hate resolution taking “an official position against bigotry, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and hate speech in the city” while recognizing the First Amendment rights of people to peacefully speak and assemble.
“It is of deep concern to me that they chose our town … perhaps thinking that their views might be welcome here,” Engler said at the meeting. “These reprehensible views are not welcome anywhere, much less in the city we all love.”
On Monday, Engler said “my comments stand. They were not welcome the last time they came here, and they’re not welcome this time.
“And I think what we as a community ought to do is really reflect on what these people are bringing to the table — a view of the world that is not inclusive — and why we are rejecting it,” continued Engler, speaking from Washington D.C. where he is attending the National League of Cities conference.
David Alpert, 56, and his wife were driving on Highway 101 Saturday when they spotted the banners on the overpass.
His wife called 911, but was told that sheriff’s deputies wouldn’t be responding, he said Monday.
The couple then parked, and he decided to confront the masked demonstrators while his wife waited in their car, said Alpert, who describes himself as a political “fierce lefty.”
He walked onto the overpass and started taking photos and video of the demonstrators with his cell phone. He said he counted seven of them.
“Something had to be done,” he said. “I wasn’t going there to fight them. I wasn’t going there to do anything other than document, ‘This is happening.’ People need to know what’s going on. I need to know what’s going on.”
He eventually left without incident, he said.
La Shaun Aaron, co-founder of the anti-racism group 805 Resistance, said Monday that Saturday’s demonstration was “horrifying.”
She has been critical of the City Council for not adopting an anti-hate resolution earlier.
“That sends a message,” she said Monday.
But she said it’s not entirely on elected officials to get the word out that Thousand Oaks won’t tolerate hate.
“I think our faith community could definitely step up and be part of the fight in terms of sending a message of love and inclusion,” she said.
At the City Council’s Feb. 22 meeting, Thousand Oaks Police Chief Jeremy Paris said that the Feb. 12 demonstrators didn’t appear to be local.
“All indications are that … these people came from out of the area,” he said.
On Monday, Paris did not return a call seeking comment about Saturday’s demonstration.
Caltrans spokesman Jim Medina said Monday that the agency doesn’t allow banners on highway overpasses because they can be a distraction to motorists. He said Caltrans was unaware of the demonstration and besides, it isn’t a law enforcement agency.
Officer Ryan Ayers of the CHP’s Moorpark office said Monday that his agency also wasn’t aware of the demonstration.
He said Caltrans can remove banners themselves unless there is a threat of danger such as from demonstrators. If so, the CHP would show up to provide a law enforcement presence while Caltrans takes the banners down, Ayers said.
Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0323.
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This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: White supremacists again display banners from overpass in Newbury Park