David Barlavi: Threatening violence always leads to failureContributor May 19, 2019 1 COMMENT
First, I’d like to set the tone of this statement with a poignant quote from one of my American heroes, Malcolm X:
“Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible. Therefore, we need enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a united front will be brought about.”
Second, allow me to explain the impetus behind raising my fist. I have said the Pledge of Allegiance with pride, loudly and proudly, since I immigrated to the United States in 1979 at the age of 10. I decided to raise my left fist during the Pledge of Allegiance (and national anthem) several years ago in support of Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter. Since then, I had never not raised my fist during the pledge or anthem. However, because of the death threats, I made a public commitment to stop raising my fist during official school board functions as soon as the threats were discovered. I made this commitment publicly, and I will stand by my promise. However, I would like to make an important statement about my decision.
Before I do, please let me clarify the status of the police report that was filed. The local sheriffs investigated the online death threats and could not locate or ID any of the anonymous online characters who made the threats. The police also could not locate or ID the anonymous threatening phone messages that were left at my office. The police did not determine that the people who had posted the provocative video(s) of our school board meetings had exhibited the requisite pattern of inciting violence through their online postings to override their First Amendment rights to free speech. However, the police report is still on file and will be reopened for further investigation if any additional threats or incitements are discovered. Sadly, the school board meetings continue to be video recorded by the protesting parties, and they have made additional postings of these videos even after the death threats became obvious. One of those protesters, instead of apologizing for the death threats, has gone as far as to spin the death threats as simply “snarky comments” in a local newspaper in an effort to excuse them. Furthermore, apart from death threats, many vile anti-Semitic and racist comments were made on the posted social media videos as well.
That being said, I would like to make the following statement.
Believe it or not, I welcomed the protests against my raised fist at first. I am a firm believer in our Constitution, in our Bill of Rights and in our First Amendment right to free speech and expression. In fact, I know full well that was the very right that allowed me to raise my fist. After about two board meetings at which I raised my fist during the Pledge of Allegiance, the protests came. Some protesters held signs calling me “anti-American.” Others held signs calling for me to resign. After seeing the protesters at the board meeting, I was actually looking forward to offering to meet with them and the community to have an open and honest discussion about the issues involved. My hope was that through understanding each other better, through greater “enlightenment,” we could come together in the best interests of our community and perhaps gain more respect for one another. I actually appreciated the protests at first. I even respected the signs that expressed negative views about me. Even though some of the comments made at the public podium contained very demeaning and hateful language, I knew that our first amendment protects everyone’s right to such speech. To “redress grievances” with fervor, however disagreeable, unpleasant, or inaccurate. That is what America is all about, after all. America is a great country because it is a place for the free exchange of ideas. Americans don’t have to agree, but we can come to understand each other better, and fight for what we believe with both passion and respect.
However to accomplish political goals under the threat of death or violence is no accomplishment at all, especially in an environment in which children are involved. In fact, it is un-American to use violence for political gain, to say the least. I know that if the public office which I hold was not so closely associated with children — for example, if I was a city council or water board member, I may not have stopped raising my first during board meetings. So to claim political victory under such threats of violence and death where children are involved is reprehensible. The words that kept reverberating in my mind during these incidents was when their president said to them during one of his campaign speeches that he would “pay for their legal expenses” for acts of violence against peaceful protesters. Reprehensible! I hope that as we all continue to protest and fight for what we believe, that we also take great care to never again incite threats of violence or harm against one another.
More importantly, that if we even unintentionally invoke such threats of violence, for example by posting videos on social media, that we quickly and publicly apologize for those death threats, delete the provocative material, block those social media characters who resort to threats of violence, and change our tactics accordingly. I myself have protested policies and politicians all of my life, but never have I tolerated my activism leading to, or utilizing, threats of violence. I would never consider any political accomplishment under threat of violence a success. In fact, I would consider it a failure on my part. I am looking forward to seeing a commitment to non-violent activism in our wonderful community going forward. May we all work to protect and preserve the Constitution and democratic system of our beloved country. Thank you.
David Barlavi is a local lawyer and a Saugus Union School District Governing Board member.
The Santa Clarita Valley Proclaimer’s opinion section does not represent the official opinions of Radio Free Santa Clarita, its board and its supporters.