An openly gay city council member was called “filth” and “dirt” due to her sexual orientation by a heckler at a public meeting last month.
The comments were directed at Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, Richmond California’s first openly lesbian councilwoman.
Mark Wassberg took to the podium, wagged his finger at the Richmond City Counciland said:
“I’m going to keep coming up here and tell you how gays have no morality. … You’re filth. You’re dirt. Because I have the constitutional right to say it.” […]
Since she was elected in 2010, Beckles, 51, has endured taunts, rants and ridicule about her sexual orientation and race – she’s from Panama and identifies herself as a black Latina – during City Council meetings.
Sometimes it comes from the public, and sometimes it comes from fellow council members.
Sometimes police haul away hecklers or the council recesses until the shouting dies down. In July, Beckles proposed a crackdown on hate speech, which the city staff is looking into.
Beckles ignores most of the jeers, but snaps occasionally. After a meeting last month, she told heckler Ken Davis to “get the f- out of [her] face” after he shouted homophobic slurs at her.
Councilman Tom Butt said Beckles’ actions were “totally appropriate” because “they never leave her alone.”
Butt, who is a 19-year veteran of the council, described the taunts at City Hall as “the worst I’ve ever seen…They love to taunt her because she’s openly lesbian,” he told the SF Gate. “You’d think in 2014 in the Bay Area this wouldn’t happen, but it goes on meeting after meeting.”
Most of the wrath comes from Councilman Corky Boozé who attack her almost weekly. Beckles has a background in psychology and works as a mental health specialist in Contra Costa County.
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