City Manager's Update / September 22, 2023
I want to address some disturbing things that happened at the City Council meeting on September 19. During both the special meeting for City Council to interview candidates for advisory bodies and the regular Council meeting that was broadcast, there were members of the public who called into the zoom meeting and made antisemitic, racist, and vulgar comments.

The comments were being made by people using fake, racist names on the zoom call participant list and continued during the public comment period during every item of the Council meeting. While several audience members and staff, including myself, wanted to kick them off the call or shut down the comments, we did not do so upon advice from our City Attorney. As disgusting as the comments were, they are protected under the First Amendment, and even offensive comments must be allowed to be made at public meetings.

During the comments, the City Council held up our “El Cerrito Stands United Against Hate” signs and stood silently. This was difficult to do, but the mindset was that if we are forced to listen to these terrible comments, the Council and staff tried to show grace and not provide a reaction that these people were looking for. Unfortunately, this seems to be a coordinated effort because several other public meetings nearby and across the state were attacked in the same way in recent weeks, and we believe that none of these people were connected with El Cerrito in any way.

I want to acknowledge how disgusting and repugnant the comments were, and that they impacted everyone attending or watching the meeting. The City Council, the City Attorney, and I are going to discuss options for future meetings. But the main issue isn’t what happened at the meeting, it’s the fact that there are people out there—who have always been out there and are now more empowered—who are hateful and horrible and actively seek to spread their hate and alienate others. I’m appalled and I never want this to be normal.

This, sadly, is not the first time El Cerrito has encountered hate. But when it has happened, we have been able to come together and be strong for each other and for the communities that have been targeted. We know how hurtful and impactful this type of behavior is, and we will do whatever we legally can to protect our community from this behavior.

We have to move forward as best we can by staying true to our values even in the face of hate. If you don't already have one, you can pick up an "El Cerrito Stands United Against Hate" sign at City Hall. I encourage everyone to post these signs in their homes or businesses. We will continue to stand together, we will speak out against hate, and we will be united with every member of every part of our community.

Let us remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Let us all be the light and love for each other, for our families and friends, and for our entire community.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.
Karen Pinkos
City Manager
City of El Cerrito
10890 San Pablo Ave.
El Cerrito, CA 94530