Jul 3, 2014
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Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles was embroiled in a number of dramas at Tuesday’s council meeting, the last ending with calls to police.

After the meeting, most of which was spent discussing a troubling budget deficit, Beckles had someone call police — and also phoned Police Chief Chris Magnus directly — to ask to be escorted to her car because she said she feared for her safety, according to the The West County Times.

Rev. Wesley Ellis and Rev. Kenneth Davis, the men Beckles says she feared following an argument, say the councilwoman was the aggressor.

“There was no evidence of criminal conduct, so there was no report,” Magnus told the Times, adding that various combatants wanted “reports filed against each other.”

But drama involving Beckles began long before the argument.

Emails circulated Wednesday morning offer more insight into what happened. In the middle of the council’s budget discussion, Beckles took to her iPad to respond to a public member’s email about her proposal to ban public members who disrupt meetings for six months. She is particularly targeting a few residents who have reportedly hurled anti-gay slurs at her in the past.

Here’s the email from public member Charles Smith, who opposes Beckles’ proposed ban, that was sent to all councilmembers before the meeting:

The First Amendment says that people have the right to speak freely without government interference. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Whether Voltaire said this or not, it unquestionably sums up his and my position on basic principle of free speech.If one person is denied his or her right to speak freely today anyone can be denied the right to speak freely tomorrow.
Ultimately the freedom to speak freely will be denied to all. Do we really want to give up this fundamental right which many throughout the world do not enjoy?Does an oppressed person have the right to speak of their hatred for their oppressor?
Don’t dictators deny the right of free speech to the oppressed? Polite speech is a liberal idea to silence disagreeable opinions. I hope that our elected officials who pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States for which it stands one nation under god with liberty and justice for all will take to heart and mind just what they are saying and reject any suggestion to inhibit free speech whatever the pretext. There are plenty of things to hate in our society including institutional violence which, given the opportunity, I will speak out against with anger and hatred; I have a right to do so  whether or not it makes others uncomfortable. Charles Class consciousness is the fertilizer of revolution.

And this is the email response Beckles reportedly sent to Smith, who passed along the email to the Richmond Standard.

Good to know that if they were calling Nat and Corky scum bag N—- who deserve to die, you’d be defending that too, right? I doubt it. But it’s okay since it’s only Queer people that’s being attacked. Good for you, you scum bag Cracka!* All you Cracka’s deserve to die! * *stated for effect only*
My God, that feels so awful to even write for effect. How people can defend that and even encourage it, is beyond me. We can all say what we want, but is it right? Does it foster kindness and a healthy dialogue and acceptance of  the diversity that is The United States of America. Ask the many Black people in America who endured the kind of hostility Queer people are currently enduring and see if they feel just because you have the right to say it, makes it right. Thank God enough people stood up to say “STOP!” to that awful abuse and verbal violence of Black people during the Civil Rights Movement to force people to address each other with dignity and respect.
People still think that way, they just know better than to say words like that out loud because it’s deemed unacceptable. It certainly is their legal right, yes. But morally, is it right? Absolutely not. You could continue to defend people’s right to treat people with hostility and create an environment that leads to hate crimes, or you could just say, “Yeah, you get to say it, but please stop. It’s just not right to treat people with such hatred.”
My item  is to explore legal options and possible consequences to breaking our current rules, not to deprive anyone of their right to free speech, btw. It’s to provide those whose right to free speech is being deprived because of the hostile and toxic environment within the council chamber by those who choose to disregard our current rules; who disrupt our meetings. Those people who want to attend and participate in their city government, deserve to be heard too. They have rights, too.

Smith then wrote an email to Councilmember Nat Bates, a critic of Beckles, saying “FYI! While you folks are discussing the budget, Ms. Beckles is writing an inflammatory letter to me.”

The council meeting reportedly ended with Beckles denouncing Councilman Jim Rogers over a vote on an agenda item. Then, after talking to media outlets that appeared more interested in her ban proposal than the city’s budget shortfall, Beckles reportedly had it out with the reverends over the same agenda item Beckles was angry with Rogers about – the North Richmond Waste and Recovery Mitigation Fee Expenditure Plan.

“Beckles was hysterical last night,” Davis told the Times. “She came and interrupted our conversation to talk crazy to me, so I let her know what I thought about her legislative performance.”

Bates, who said he witnessed the dispute, said Beckles and the reverend got in each others’ face. Public members and at least one television news crew also witnessed the dispute, Bates said. Beckles called the reverends “ignorant black people,” Bates said, and also was heard hollering, “Get the F—k  out of my face.”

“The lady has gone bananas,” Bates said.

Beckles at one point tried to get someone to call police. She told the Times she was reduced to tears after Councilmember Corky Booze, another Beckles critic, tried to stop a security guard from calling cops, calling Booze an intimidating 300-pound councilmember.

Booze said the reverends did nothing wrong and also denied being 300 pounds.

It wasn’t the first time Beckles hurled the F-word in public.

We first reported the irony of Beckles wanting heckling residents to be suspended from attending council meetings at the same time as she defended an episode in council chambers in which she cursed out Corky Booze.

Beckles later denied saying “F— You” to Booze in council chambers. The following day, she used Facebook to clarify her statement. She said she instead called him an “effing idiot.”

When the vice mayor first introduced her proposal to ban public members she stated: “As a mental health professional, I have serious concerns about the bad behavior that we are modeling for young people and our community.”

On Wednesday she admitted on Facebook to losing her temper “after being practically assaulted by their mob mentality.”

“They are hateful, miserable, hostile people,” she added, according to the Times. “It saddens me deeply.”

Bates said that while he does not condone hate speech, Beckles as a politician should be held to a higher standard than citizens.

Both Bates and Beckles are up for reelection in November.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.