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The backs of a full audience before Richmond City Council, whose members are facing the camera, behind the council table. A gray-haired woman on the left side of the room is holding a small American flag; a man in front on the right is wearing a head covering, and the woman next to him, in a green kerchief over her dark hair, is holding up a cardboard sign whose message is visible to council.

Mayor says after Gaza resolution, council members were hit with angry messages and threats

on December 5, 2023

In the weeks since Richmond City Council passed its resolution in support of the Palestinian people, council members and city staff have become victims of doxxing and harassment, the mayor says. 

During a time of division between residents, politicians and world leaders, Richmond made national news in October when it became the first reported city to take a stance and condemn Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, bringing both praise and backlash.

Menacing messages to council members and city staff are being sent to the Richmond Police Department. None of the threats thus far has warranted an investigation.

 “We did have several voicemails that were forwarded to us by council members from individuals expressing their anger with the City Council,” Lt. Donald Patchin said this week. “Their speech is protected by the First Amendment and did not amount to a crime.”

On Nov. 7, Mayor Eduardo Martinez posted on Instagram that council members and staff were receiving “violent threats of sexual assaults and doxxing” after the resolution. In addition to the threats, the resolution also prompted two resignations from the Design Review Board. 

Martinez’s post was in response to a Richmond Pulse story he took issue with, about the Jewish community’s negative reaction to the City Council’s Oct. 24 resolution. “We have seen no coverage of the violent threats of sexual assault and doxxing City Councilmembers and staff have received for this resolution,” he wrote in the post.

Martinez told Richmond Confidential that, contrary what some have alleged, there is no evidence that the messages have come from Russian, Iranian or Chinese bots. Most, he added, have included the sender’s identification. 

“I’ve been surprised at how comfortable people are sharing their identity when making such violent threats or racist comments,” Martinez said. “This resolution aimed to fill a gap that has long existed in American society: recognition for the rights, safety, and dignity of the Palestinian people.”

While the majority of those present at the Oct. 24 City Council meeting favored the resolution supporting the people of Gaza, others disagreed with the language, which initially only acknowledged the Palestinians’ pain. It was then amended to address the lives lost on both sides and passed by a vote of 5-1. 

Since the meeting, council members have spoken on social media about the messages they are receiving and to promote peace among residents.

Cesar Zepeda, who voted against the resolution,  addressed the threats on Facebook saying, “If you disagree with your council member’s views, by all means let us know. That’s what democratic government is about. But do not threaten or act uncivilly towards us.” 

Councilmember Doria Robinson shared some of the messages she has received on Facebook, where she was called “a disgusting Nazi” and a “piece of shit.” In a Facebook post two days after the council meeting, Robinson said. “Sadly this kind of email is not an anomaly but many of the pro Israeli responses are in this vein — of course not all but many many more than I anticipated.” 

Richmond City Council passes controversial resolution supporting Gaza that draws hundreds to meeting

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