Mountain View Voice

News - March 29, 2013

Committee chair unleashes anti-Semitic comments

Mayor says Parkinson violated code of conduct

by Daniel DeBolt

Comments made by Visual Arts Committee chair Christopher Parkinson online and in emails last week are bizarre," "anti-Semitic," and examples of "textbook prejudice," according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Parkinson's original comments were removed from the Voice website for containing offensive language, linking City Council member Ronit Bryant to a conspiracy among women in local governing bodies and a Jewish conspiracy headed by the Rothschild family — "a classic anti-Semitic charge," said Seth Brysk of the Anti-Defamation League's San Francisco office.

When contacted by the Voice after he posted the comments, Parkinson sent emails further detailing his beliefs, as well as another email and online comment threatening lawsuits against the city and the newspaper if action were taken against him.

Parkinson made his original comments on March 20 in an apparent attempt to explain Bryant's opposition to the placement of two donated Berlin Wall sections in front of the city's library after she had previously called them "two very large pieces of ugly cement." Parkinson serves as a volunteer on the visual arts committee, which had been charged with narrowing down a list of possible locations for the pieces.

Parkinson's allusions to the Rothschild family — often cited in conspiracy theories — "is part of an old anti-Semitic trope which states that Jews in general — as symbolized through the Rothschild family — have inordinate control over power, finance and government and use this control to their own benefit," Brysk said.

"Council Member Ronit is from Israel," Parkinson wrote in his March 20 comments removed from the Voice's website. "That means she is a Rothschild mind and it shows. I am proud of her 25 percent of the time and think she is out of Rothschild whack 75 percent of the time."

He goes on to blames women in government for diverting gasoline taxes away from auto infrastructure needs to transit-oriented development, "thanks to ABAG, and some other transit related agencies with the Rothschild mindset in women on all these boards."

Bryant sits on the general assembly and executive board of the Association of Bay Area Governments as well as ABAG's regional planning committee.

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga was the only council member to speak out against Parkinson, calling his comments "misogynistic" and "anti-Semitic."

"I read the comments and find them extremely offensive," Abe-Koga said at the end of Tuesday's City Council meeting. "As someone who has received hate mail for the color of my skin, I need to say this is unacceptable. This is not a community that tolerates this, I believe. When this happened to me I was very appreciative of the support I received. It's even more unacceptable that it comes from someone that sits on one of our advisory committees and is even more of a public figure."

Parkinson's references to the Rothschilds are "an allusion to a notion that Jews control the world," Brysk said. "This type of reasoning, if you can call it that, is exactly what the Nazis used to justify the attempt at genocide and to commit the crimes of the Holocaust."

In a phone interview the same day he made his original comment, Parkinson seemed personally irritated with Bryant's demeanor, saying, "It always seems to be an argument with her. My way or the highway." He laughed and said that Bryant's voice "sounds like Benjamin Netanyahu (a man he connected to the Rothschilds as the prime minister of Israel). His tone is very very very very harsh against people."

He also mentioned council member Jac Siegel, also of Jewish descent.

"Who drives the Supreme Court?" he asked. "Justice Kennedy. Who drives the city of Mountain View? It is an old veteran. Ronit Bryant isn't there all the time; sometimes it's Jac Siegel. Between those two they are the ones who drive the city of Mountain View."

At the end of the interview, Parkinson realized that his comments had been removed from the Voice's website, and said, "Since you removed it, I'm just going to say that it never was said, there's no proof."

He then further detailed his views in two lengthy emails to the Voice, saying that the Rothschilds "are right here in Mountain View, large and in charge."

"Mountain View is under siege with a handful of developers that enrich themselves on the gas tax trough, a classic Rothschild tactic (before it was bond market manipulation, today it's the gas tax)," he wrote to the Voice. "This was enabled by certain people who happen to be women (Because men see through this) on ABAG, the MTA, a certain nonprofit in Davis and a few other key people who are congressional people, namely people like Zoe Lofgren, who hates Americans and help this whole process along."

After the emails, he unleashed more comments online.

"I will let this go and I better not hear a word about it," Parkinson said in a comment removed from the Voice's website on March 22. "This city has deep pockets and I will make them bleed if my 1st Amendment rights are violated, and it looks like they are I am deadly serious here, as graduated law school and all I have to do is take the BAR, I need no attorney and will bury the city in 500 page interrogatories. Think again Mayor, think again your actions, you too will be sued and so too this paper. I need to go for a walk, my blood is boiling."

In an email to Bryant on March 22, which starts off with "Council member Bryant, please calm down," he writes: "I expect that nothing comes of this, and I am welcome in my volunteer duties. Take this very seriously as a law school graduate, I know how to file lawsuits, and serve 500 page interrogatories that you and others will spend hundreds of thousands in legal fees just answering."

City officials have been largely silent on Mr. Parkinson's comments. In an email, City Manager Dan Rich said, "The City does not condone Mr. Parkinson's comments and the Mayor will be sending a letter to him regarding this."

The letter from Mayor John Inks admonishes Parkinson for identifying himself as a Visual Arts Committee member in his comments and not distinguishing between his own opinions and those of the committee. But "perhaps most troubling is the disparaging remarks you made regarding a council member," Inks says. Parkinson violated a "code of conduct" he is "required to adhere to," which means refraining from "abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of the City Council, the boards, commissions, committees, staff and the public," Inks writes. "Your comments were offensive and contrary to the Code of Conduct."

Inks goes on to say: "I am concerned that you do not appreciate your responsibility as an appointed Visual Arts Committee member and are unable to comport yourself in a proper manner. If you cannot conduct yourself in accordance with the Code of Conduct and fulfill your role as a Visual Arts Committee member, I will recommend the City Council consider further action regarding your appointment."

Parkinson took a vacant seat on the committee in March 2012 and was reappointed by the council in December. He could stay on the committee until the end of his term in 2016 unless council members take action to remove him.

Bryant and Siegel declined to comment for the story, as did council member Mike Kasperzak, who was copied on one of Parkinson's emails. Vice Mayor Chris Clark was considering whether to weigh in, but said he wanted to discuss the situation more with city staff members.

Brysk said city officials should not hesitate to use their First Amendment rights to call out bigotry.

"It would seem appropriate for the city to disassociate itself from somebody who holds such highly offensive points of view that demonize one segment of the population," Brysk said.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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