Santee taking steps to address incidents of intolerance – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Posted By on May 21, 2020

The Santee City Council has decided to add four new members to the citys Community Oriented Policing Committee, a response to two incidents at local grocery stores in which individuals were wearing articles of clothing that could be considered racist or anti-Semitic.

Councilman Stephen Houlahan, at a meeting last week, said it was troubling that a man felt comfortable enough in Santee to don a KKK hood, and that two other individuals felt emboldened to affix Nazi swastika symbols over their facemasks.

12:16 PM, May. 20, 2020 This story has been updated to note that resident Michele Perchez believes that Santee has fostered a xenophobic culture because of its history.

Santee Mayor John Minto said it was time to take a deeper look into the citys history of racism and cultural bias to find out why it exists, in what areas most incidents have been documented, and how pervasive it is in the community.

Minto said he wants to create a plan that will include reaching out to schools and the business community, and possibly hold community meetings designed around the topics of racism.

The skys the limit, he said. Everybody has to be part of the conversation.

As for expanding the 17-member COMPOC, Minto said it was important to bring on people who have experience in problem-solving.

The group currently includes Minto, a former San Diego police officer, City Manager Marlene Best, Recreation Services Manager Anne Morrison, three members of the San Diego County Sheriffs department, and other community members.

Minto suggested adding two people he knew: an African-American pastor from the southeastern part of the city of San Diego, somebody whos dealt with racism all of their life and has talked about how to heal, and a woman who has been part of the Anti Defamation League, a former school principal who has taught messages of tolerance and acceptance to students at schools.

You have to have people that have had these kind of experiences, who understand what other people may be telling them.... how to live in the shoes of someone else... put it in perspective, he said.

City Councilwoman Laura Koval said the incidents triggered peoples emotions and brought things bubbling to the surface but that having a plan moving forward will bring the city together and will help it become stronger and better.

City Councilman Ronn Hall suggested there be at least two more open seats for others interested in being part of COMPOC and suggested a subcommittee and seminars with managers of local retail stores.

Residents used last weeks discussion about the policing committee to share their concerns.

Some said they were embarrassed by the negative national attention the city got. Carly Morales said she didnt live in Santee but shopped there and was now having second thoughts about doing so. Lee Harstad called the recent incidents a black eye on the city of Santee and Michele Perchez, who said she has lived in Santee for about 19 years, said Santees history has fostered a xenophobic culture.

Its sickening that these individuals think its OK to promote their racist cause without any fear of consequence, Tina Deeson said. Unfortunately, those incidents are what people who dont live here think we are as a city. We need to show them again that hate has no business here.

City Council member Rob McNelis, who moved to Santee in 1994, said he took offense that Santee was being characterized as a racist community and fired back at comments made suggesting he was racist. He said he is tremendously proud of his heritage and that his mom is half Mexican, half Spanish; his father half Mexican and half Irish.

It doesnt matter what your background is, Santee is an incredibly great community, he said. I do take offense when people say that its some racist community. Its not, maybe it was... it hasnt been as long as Ive been here. Thats not our community. Its not what Ive found, its not what Ive seen, its not the realistic experience of most of the people who have lived here for 20-plus years, 30 years.

Houlahan said he was concerned about the financial hit Santee might take because of those who might not move or shop in the city because of the racist issues.

We must take the strongest action possible, move forward, denounce it as strongly as possible, Houlahan said. Lets get real here, council, and lets move forward appropriately. We need to look at COMPOC as a first step. The right thing is to handle this racism issue head-on.

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Santee taking steps to address incidents of intolerance - The San Diego Union-Tribune

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