The Santee City Council on June 24 unanimously passed a resolution affirming the city’s commitment to promoting tolerance and denouncing racism stating in part that Santee “condemns White Nationalism, White Supremacy and denounces the use of symbols associated with these groups, including, but not limited to swastikas or hoods.”
The resolution language alludes to two separate May incidents in which two men were seen in Santee stores wearing attire considered racist and anti-Semitic.
Although the resolution says the city is committed to taking specific steps to address issues of intolerance and racism in the community, City Manager Marlene Best and Mayor John Minto did not identify what those actions would be. That responsibility was delegated to the Community Oriented Policing Committee.
Councilman Ron Hall suggested a review of the committee at future city council meetings.
“Of course we agree with this document and denouncing racism, that’s important. At the same time, we have to make sure it’s not a piece of paper,” Hall said. “My concern, always, is results… We need to come back every two or three months and say this is where we are and this is what we’ve done… we need to be accountable in these meetings,” Hall said.
The resolution also acknowledges a May 25 Minnesota incident in which George Floyd, a Black man was killed by a white police officer using excessive force. That event triggered nationwide protests against police brutality that reached East county with protesters standing in front of Santee Town Center for several days beginning on May 31.
Throughout the week of protests, several local community watchdog groups also organized and interacted with protesters. Some openly said on recordings spread through social media that they were on hand to defend Santee from outsiders and claimed they were doing so with approval from the Santee Sheriff.
“If people want to march or peacefully protest, the Santee sheriff does not condone nor endorse those activities. Similarly if people in an area choose to watch or “patrol” any area the Santee sheriff has no legal authority to prevent such activities. The Sheriff’s department enforces laws. If people, whatever they are doing, do it in a lawful manner, we do not have any lawful authority to intervene,” Sheriff’s Deputy Lt. Ricardo Lopez wrote in a June 9 email to The East County Californian.
One Santee woman told the council she believes it is that sort of perceived support from which hate groups draw strength.
“I am a brown Latino woman who owns a home here in Santee… I have been targeted on social media by vigilantes, East County Defenders. When this group feels supported, they act out and confirm our worst fears… Santee is known for white supremacy,” said Christina Perry during the meeting’s public comment period.
The next COMPOC meeting will be held virtually on July 13.