Fliers with swastikas drawn on the forehead of an Oakland council member who is of Jewish descent were posted along a busy shopping area in the district she grew up in and represents. Jodi Hernandez reports.
Fliers with swastikas drawn on the forehead of a Jewish Oakland council member were posted along a busy and affluent shopping area in the district she grew up in and represents.
The councilwoman, Oakland native Libby Schaaf, said she found the fliers displayed Sunday on Mountain Boulevard in the neighborhood of Montclair “very hurtful.”
"It's very hurtful, especially as a person of Jewish heritage, to see your face with a swastika on your forehead,” Schaaf said. “I'm very proud of that heritage and I know there's a large community of people that really were hurt having to see that."
The postings appeared to be a response to the city's plan to create a surveillance center, which would allow authorities to monitor streets through multiple surveillance forms, such as cameras and gunshot sensors, in order to help detectives solve crimes.
Investigators said they received a report about the postings around 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Shortly after, many of the fliers, which read "Stop Schaaf. Stop the DAC (Domain Awareness Center)," were taken off the boulevard. Neighbors spent part of Monday peeling off the plethora of posters on street poles as well. Many were shocked and disgusted that this Nazi-era display - especially targeting a Jewish councilmember - could exist today in the liberal bastion of the Bay Area.
Those who stand against the surveillance center are concerned about their privacy, including the possibility police could generate files on citizens. To try and stop the measure, they created an online petition in an attempt to reach 5,000 signatures. So far, 4,350 signatures have been collected.
The surveillance hub was approved last July and will be funded through federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security. The center could implement a total of 700 cameras at Oakland public schools and 135 cameras at the Oakland Coliseum complex.
Schaaf said she believes the attack is personal and not about the Domain Awareness Center. She says that she has expressed privacy concerns over the center, so it doesn't make sense for her to be targeted.
"The attack does feel personal because the issue is one that they misrepresented my position on it," Schaaf said.
Schaaf said she is most concerned about the impact on her two young children. She said she would likely talk to them Monday night.
Schaaf said her family spent the day talking about Martin Luther King Jr. and about the importance of tolerance, love and acceptance
"To the extent we talk about this incident with our children, we will certainly put it into the light of Martin Luther King Day, that we still have a lot of work to do, even in a place like Oakland, California, to become more tolerant,” Schaaf said.
A similar incident happened in September of last year in the Fruitvale district where swastikas were posted on Councilman Noel Gallo's forehead after a curfew was proposed for the city's youth.
Shaaf, who is running for mayor this year, said she has "expressed serious concern" and is surprised that she has been "targeted with this particular issue."
At this point, it still remains unclear if police will view this incident as a hate crime.
For her part, Schaaf refused to call it a hate crime.
"I'm not going to speculate,” Schaaf said. “That is the job of law enforcement to determine whether or not this was a hate crime and how to investigate it. Personally, I believe there are a lot of priorities for our law enforcement professionals in Oakland. We had a double homicide in Oakland yesterday.”