SURJ Bay Area Questions Anti-Black and Anti-Semitic Reporting in Recent Berkeleyside Coverage

SURJ Bay Area
Oct 13, 2018 · 4 min read

SURJ Bay Area was disappointed by Emilie Raguso’s recent reporting in Berkeleyside on the Berkeley Police Department’s protocol to defame and disparage anti-fascist protesters by posting their photos and personal information on the city’s social media platforms. We are further dismayed that Raguso would use the pages of Berkeleyside to launch barbs at Councilwoman Davila, who sponsored legislation to curb BPD’s social media posting practices, and at her legislative aide, Sara Kershnar.

Our surprise was generated by Raguso’s peculiar sculpting of the facts that inspired anti-doxing proposal sponsored by Councilwomen Davila and Harrison. On August 5th, BPD arrested 21 anti-racist protesters on spurious charges hours before any events had begun, making BPD’s intention to prevent any anti-racist gathering apparent. But were any crimes committed? According to Emily Rose Johns of the National Lawyers Guild, who represented the arrestees in court, the District Attorney refused to file charges against any of the anti-racist arrestees whose names and photos BPD publicized.

Still, BPD publicized the personal information and photos of the arrestees — including two SURJ members — effectively trying them in the court of public opinion at the BPD’s sole discretion. White supremacists called the BPD’s release of data “a victory,” and one racist’s Facebook post gloated that everyone arrested would certainly be doxxed as soon as possible. Incredibly, Raguso ignored these online threats in her reporting.

Indeed, within hours the online intimidation began. Anonymous, untraceable voicemails & texts were received on personal phones of arrestees. Many arrestees were concerned about the possibility of physical violence. Fake reviews were left on one arrestee’s business profiles. Again, Raguso’s reporting lacks any coverage of the folks who were targeted by these racists.

If she had bothered, she would have easily discovered the motivation for Councilwoman Davila’s proposal: that public safety be assured to those who stand up against racist provocateurs in our community.

Most shocking, however, is Raguso’s attempt to bend the narrative of limiting BPD’s egregious use of social media into an attack on Councilwoman Davila and her legislative aide, Sara Kershnar. Raguso asserts that Kershnar provided “significant input” on Davila’s initial proposal, implying that the rights of anti-racist protesters could not possibly concern Berkeley’s only Black female councilperson. Raguso cites Kershnar’s use of city editing software as “proof” of this “significant input,” as if the duties of a Legislative Aide do not include the actual drafting of legislation.

Raguso treads into even more dangerous territory when she references Kershnar’s Judaism. In so doing, she compounds her earlier assertion that Davila is incapable of rights advocacy of her own volition, now with the additional inference that Kershnar, a Jew, is pulling strings behind the scenes. It’s a time-worn anti-Semitic trope; if a Jew is involved, a deep conspiracy must be at play, or at least could be.

As an organization dedicated to organizing white people into the larger multi-racial struggle for racial justice, SURJ Bay Area wholly rejects Raguso’s anti-Black and anti-Semitic reporting. At the same time, we applaud the efforts by Councilwomen Davila and Harrison to reduce the risks that protesters in Berkeley face when they stand up to white supremacists who wish to normalize their hate in our public spaces. That the Berkeley City Council quickly approved a modified version of their proposal demonstrates that the political initiative to offer such legislation clearly resonates with Berkeley residents. This is true, whether or not Emilie Raguso and Berkeleyside choose to report it. (They didn’t.)

As is often the case, when people call out racist and white supremacist politics and tactics, they receive blowback from the institutions that undergird said white supremacy. By contributing to efforts to expose BPD’s secretly-enacted policies to the light of day, Ms. Kershnar is quite consciously stepping into the line of fire. However, she is not alone. She is one of a growing mass of white people who refuse to remain silent in the face of racial injustice. Her choice to confront white supremacist policies and practices inside and outside of City Hall, and to join with our counterparts in Black and Brown communities, is admirable and contagious. By doing so, she’s contributing to a future where white supremacist theory and practice are finally confined to the dustbin of history.

Recently, four California-based white supremacists were arrested and charged with violently attacking anti-racist counter-protesters at the deadly 2017 Charlottesville, VA “Unite the Right” rallies. We would be remiss to act as if these racists choose only to operate out of state. As much as we hate to admit it, white supremacists are in our midst. Their intention is to normalize their presence and hate in the public sphere. Anti-racists of all stripes have committed to disrupting these plans. We hope that Emilie Raguso’s future coverage of these issues in Berkeleyside can complement rather than distract from these anti-racist efforts.

SURJ Bay Area Blog

Moving white people to act as part of a multi-racial…

SURJ Bay Area Blog

Moving white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.

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Showing Up for Racial Justice - Bay Area ~Moving white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.

SURJ Bay Area Blog

Moving white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.