Oakland mayoral candidate threatens Jewish community in mass emails

An Oakland mayoral candidate has been widely condemned for making anti-Semitic comments in mass emails first sent on Sunday. Another candidate was criticized for his initial response to these comments.

On Sunday, Peter Liu, who ran for mayor of Oakland twice and never won more than 1% of the vote, emailed more than 60 people, including other candidates and members of the media, slandering and threatening the Jewish Community Relations Council, a Bay Area public affairs group, and worshipers at Oakland’s Temple Sinai Synagogue. Liu also accused the two organizations of unfairly excluding him and other mayoral candidates from an upcoming forum at the temple.

“I am sick of these corrupt Jews and their media allies misleading the public,” Liu wrote, invoking an anti-Semitic trope in which Jews are accused of nefariously controlling mass media.

And today, Liu threatened Temple Sinai, saying in his final mass email that he would “inform all national veterans organizations” of his grievance against the temple. He followed that up with another email stating, “I’m not afraid of jail. I overcame the fear of being killed for a long time, I was a veteran. If I die, I die for righteous reasons. I fear no enemy at this point.

Reached by phone, Liu told The Oaklanside he believed there was “Jewish supremacy” in Oakland and around the world, echoing conspiracy theories that have long been used to target and persecute Jewish people.

Oaklandside chose not to quote much of what Liu said in our interview and in his emails. Many of his comments were based on racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views that have no basis in fact. These views have gained a growing following on the internet in recent years, especially with the rise of once fringe candidates like Donald Trump who come to power while peddling racist myths.

These ideologies have fueled far-right violence in recent years, including mass shootings. Groups specifically named by Liu — Jewish, black, queer and trans people — have also been targeted for such violence. For example, in 2018, 11 members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were murdered by a white supremacist.

“Comments like these help obscure anti-Semitism,” said Tye Gregory, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the group that organizes the mayors’ forum.

“There are sort of two sides to the coin here,” Gregory continued. “On the one hand, we don’t want a fringe candidate with those beliefs to have a high platform. On the other hand, it’s a good reminder of why the Jewish community decided to have its own forum.

Gregory said Oakland police are aware of Liu’s comments and that OPD will be present at the Temple forum. “It’s unfortunate that we need that kind of security,” he said. “Our places of worship are meant to be welcoming places for everyone.”

Although Liu denies his recent comments are inflammatory and has said he meant no harm, he has a history of hurtful speech aimed at minority groups. In 2018, when he ran for mayor, Liu took to Twitter to blame his dismal performance on “Jews shamelessly rigging elections by owning [and] control the mass media. In 2017, he urged a boycott of Disney because they “introduce gay scenes into films for innocent children”. He said he was later banned from Twitter for hate speech. Oaklandside reviewed old tweets from Liu, which he saved on Facebook, for this story.

Liu is one of 10 candidates for mayor this year. His platform includes building giant water slides in parks and allowing people to carry concealed firearms. He describes himself as a self-made millionaire and said his views on the world are shaped by his Christian beliefs. He told The Oaklandside he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2015 after serving in the military.

By Tuesday afternoon, Liu had sent more than 17 replies to the same email chain, leveling more hate-speech-tinged accusations at the organizers of the Jewish community forum, even as other candidates and other observers were urging him to stop.

Quickly condemned by other candidates in the Oakland mayoral race

The discussion taking place on Liu’s thread follows several weeks of a larger conversation about participation and visibility in the Oakland mayoral race. That conversation escalated last month when an error by a city clerk resulted in the disqualification of several mayoral candidates. The candidates spoke out about what they saw as an attack on the democratic process in the city.

In a field of 10 candidates, some also raised concerns about other forums and debates that had only a few people running. For example, an event organized by Visit Oakland, a not-for-profit organization partially funded by taxpayers’ money, and the Jack London Improvement District included only three candidates: Treva Reid, Loren Taylor and Sheng Thao, all current members of the Oakland City Council.

Reid, Taylor and Thao are also the only candidates invited to the upcoming forum hosted by Temple Sinai and the Jewish Community Relations Council. Any private group or organization can decide to organize a forum of mayors and invite whoever they want. JCRC’s Tye Gregory said event organizers decided who to invite based on fundraising status; they went with the three contestants who have raised the most money so far.

Mayoral candidate Tyron Jordan told The Oaklandside he believes ‘all 10 qualified candidates should be invited to participate in forums’, attributing the exclusion to ‘oversight’ in some cases and the decision not to not invite some candidates into others.

But that’s no excuse for bigotry, Jordan said. “I absolutely deplore the anti-[Semitic] comments… We have seen the consequences of hate speech, especially in recent years.

Other candidates also scolded Liu when replying to her email.

“If you want to criticize a forum sponsor for the way they prioritize the candidates they choose to invite to their private event, that is entirely appropriate and I will support your right to do so, exercising your freedom of ‘expression,” wrote Taylor, one of the recipients of Liu’s original email. “However, I will not sit idly by and remain silent when you make generalizations about an entire race of people, perpetuating inaccurate stereotypes that undermine the foundations of the strong, unified and diverse community that most of us strive to build and strengthen here in Oakland.”

Gregory Hodge, another mayoral candidate who was not invited to the forum, wrote that it is “unacceptable to engage in anti-Asian, anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-trans or any other behavior. form of oppressive behavior and language. Period. Sudden stop.

And Hodge defended the temple’s decision to invite only three of 10 mayoral candidates.

“Organizations that choose to provide forums for applicants to share their views and approaches to healing the injured in our city are within their rights to invite anyone to participate based on any criteria they deem relevant,” he wrote.

Candidate Seneca Scott slammed for suggesting temple protest

The first response to Liu’s email on Sunday came from Seneca Scott, a West Oakland resident and founder of entertainment company Oakhella, who is also a mayoral candidate. Scott responded to Liu’s email in two minutes with one word: “Protest!?!”

Liu replied that they should hold a side show – a demonstration of illegal stunt racing – in front of the temple.

Several people posted screenshots of this exchange on social media. Among them was Cat Brooks, an activist and 2018 Oakland mayoral candidate. Brooks wrote that she interpreted Scott’s comment as an endorsement of Liu’s anti-Jewish views.

“His response was absolutely inappropriate,” Brooks said in an interview with The Oaklandside. “It can’t be divorced from what’s happening nationally, from the political base that Trump has built.” She said it was dangerous to endorse the idea of ​​a protest at a Jewish temple at a time when hate crimes are on the rise. Just days before Scott responded to Liu’s inflammatory email, Brooks had taken to Twitter to share a “serious concern” about Scott’s candidacy.

Scott told The Oaklandside today that he was ‘absolutely not anti-Semitic’ and that his response was only meant to express his frustration that some candidates were asked to appear in public policy forums and others nope. Later in the thread, he encouraged Liu to apologize “to let people know you’re not making a general statement about Jews.”

“It’s just too busy like that,” Scott added.

Scott has come under fire in recent months due to a recent photograph in which he posed next to a well-known transphobic activist named Chris Elston. Elston, who is known for spreading misinformation about the types of medical treatment provided to transgender youth, visited the Oakland First Fridays event in June wearing sandwich boards printed with transphobic hate messages. Scott agreed to be photographed wearing one of the sandwich boards, and Elston later posted the photo on Twitter.

Scott told The Oaklandside it was the first and only time he had met Elston and he knew next to nothing about the medical treatments available to trans people, but agreed to carry the sign after listening to Elston talk about the problem. He said he didn’t read the sign before putting it on and called the move a mistake in a conversation today.

“I disagree with these statements,” he said. “I don’t agree with this guy.”

It’s not the first time that Liu has held hateful views or targeted the Sinai temple.

During his first mayoral race in 2014, Liu criticized Temple Sinai for not inviting him to participate in his mayoral debate. According to emails Liu posted on his extensive Oakland Wiki page, the temple only invited candidates who received the support of at least 5% of likely voters in recent independent polls. Liu was not among them.

Zennie Abraham, a longtime freelance video blogger and political commentator from Oakland who also received Liu’s emails over the past few days, replied to Liu that he felt threatened and harassed and was considering taking action under the city’s hate crimes law.

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