Shock and confusion unfolded during San Bernardino’s City Council meeting Wednesday night when a woman addressing the council was subjected to racist slurs by a remote caller.
It appeared to be a typical meeting, with people voicing their opinions on an agenda item. Several individuals, including Amy Malone, expressed their disapproval of the city’s new manager, Charles Montoya, being voted in following allegations of misconduct in his previous positions.
“I have nothing against this man; I wish he’d get a second chance somewhere else,” said Chache Wright of the San Bernardino branch of the NAACP.
“Obviously, when you look at his track record, you would not hire him for your own personal business,” echoed Malone.
However, the situation quickly took a turn when Malone was interrupted by what seemed to be at least two men hurling racist insults on a Zoom microphone.
“Somebody shut this ***** up… Go home, you… b***. Go back to Africa if you don’t like it,” the voices could be heard saying.
“It took me aback; I was angry, I was scared. I didn’t know if I was being verbally assaulted, and if this would be followed by a physical assault,” Malone said.
Malone can be heard reiterating the racist remarks, clearly shocked by what she had heard. That’s when Mayor Pro Tem Fred Shorett interrupted her and told her to wait while they figured out what was happening.
Malone then asked Shorett to apologize for what was said from the anonymous remote caller, which he did, saying the incident was unacceptable but was a technical issue that was out of the council’s control.
“He told me to wait, and then I had to ask him for an apology. Once he said what he had to say, everything moved on as if nothing had happened,” Malone said Friday.
The meeting then resumed, with only one council member, Ben Reynoso, addressing the racist tirade.
“You have to log in, and you’re put into a queue. Because this is at the end of public comment, there was a transition from the queue for public comment to a public hearing that was about to start. That’s when the incident occurred, and they unmuted themselves and made these inappropriate comments,” said City Spokesperson Jeff Kraus.
Kraus said they’ve identified the IP addresses of the people who were logged in at the time, and that information was forwarded to the police.
However, Malone criticized their response and the fact that it took the city two days to issue a formal apology.
Malone added that she didn’t want the incident to become something that divides the city.
“I don’t want that to be the issue; I want this to be something that we all come together against,” she said.
City officials said they are re-evaluating the use of Zoom during council meetings.