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Old 01-27-2010, 02:15 PM
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Kellar draws a crowd
Protestors on either side of heated immigration debate gather at City Hall

Carlos Alvarez, 23, of Los Angeles, right, confronts Mountain Minutemen founder Robert Crooks, 59, of Canyon Country, as they argue about immigration and racism outside City Hall on Tuesday before a City Council meeting.

Councilman Bob Kellar’s statements at a recent local Minutemen rally have stirred people’s opinions on both sides of the immigration issue
Francisca Rivas (The Signal)1 of 4 View Large

By Jonathan Randles
Signal Staff Writer
661-259-1234 x519
Posted: Jan. 26, 2010 10:53 p.m.
UPDATED Jan. 27, 2010 10:55 a.m.

In the hours leading up to Tuesday night’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting, the outside of City Hall was turned into an emotional powder keg as Minutemen groups and immigrant support groups clashed — a culmination after more than a week’s worth of controversy over Councilman Bob Kellar’s comments at an anti-illegal immigration rally.

The Minutemen and their supporters held signs calling Kellar “an American Hero.”

Members of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, and other immigrant support groups, held signs saying “Fire ‘proud racist’ Bob Keller (sic) now!”

Kellar’s speech last week has been polarizing — drawing praise and criticism from people on either side of the debate. Some have said Kellar’s words have been taken out of context; others say his speech violated the city’s code of ethics adopted in May 2008.

Outside of City Hall, some demonstrators got into each others’ faces, yelled and pointed fingers at each other.

“Minutemen are a dying breed,” said Carlos Alvarez, 23, from Los Angeles.

“Racists say get back, we say fight back,” he and others chanted.

“Are you an American citizen?” responded Mountain Minutemen founder Robert Crooks, 59, from Canyon Country.

“Do you have a green card?” Crooks said.

Several television crews and photographers recorded the altercations as the drama unfolded. Several Los Angeles television media outlets descended on Santa Clarita to cover Tuesday’s meeting.

The meeting
Before the council meeting began, Bob Kellar emerged from a door near the dais.

Almost exactly half of the people in the audience stood up to give him applause. The other half sat silently.

Kellar shot a grin at the crowd before disappearing behind another door.

Outside the Council chambers, men and women talked about their distrust for the government.

“They’re going to take our guns away,” one man said.

Another man, Ed Ventresca of Santa Clarita, wore a shirt saying, “Stop the New World Order.”

The John Birch Society member passed out literature saying liberalism is an evil conspiracy to destroy the United States of America.

By the time the City Council convened, people were standing in the hallway outside of the chambers because the building was so crowded.

Most people waited until the end of the meeting to comment about Kellar’s remarks.

Public comment
Mayor Laurene Weste said during the meeting that she expected the public comment portion of the meeting to last at least two hours.

Most of the audience cheered when speakers came up to support Kellar. The immigrant groups that had protested for hours before, did not attend the meeting.

A few times Weste and Councilman Frank Ferry had to tell the audience to remain quiet and refrain from applauding or booing.

Local activist Bruce McFarland drew hisses from the crowd while he gave a speech critical of Kellar’s remarks.

“I will comment about Bob’s apparent stupidity on the matter at a later time,” McFarland said.

“I still call upon the Council to censure Bob Kellar for violating the code of ethics,” he said.

After his speech, a woman in the audience cursed at McFarland.

“I want to remind you that a group of Boy Scouts are in the crowd,” Weste said.

A few city Council candidates also gave prepared statements to the council.

Candidate TimBen Boydston told the Council that Kellar unintentionally violated the city’s code of ethics by not clearly stating he was not representing the city of Santa Clarita.

“The assertion that Mr. Kellar made using the term racist is not appropriate in any context,” Boydston said. “It is inflammatory.”

In an interview during a break at the meeting, Kellar said he doesn’t think he will apologize for how he phrased his comments at the rally.

“The reason I say that is maybe it takes a little something to address an important issue,” Kellar said.

Boydston, who worked on the code of ethics when he was on the City Council in 2008, asked Kellar to apologize for his remarks so the matter could be put to rest.

In previous reports, City Attorney Carl Newton said he thought it was clear Kellar was giving his own passionate opinion and did not violate the code, citing the First Amendment.

During his speech, Boydston called on the council to form a citizen’s task force that could make recommendations to Council members on how Santa Clarita can address local issues related to illegal immigration.

Council candidate David Gauny told the Council he supports Kellar’s stand against illegal immigration and that his speech has been taken out of context.

While addressing the Council, he criticized Weste for not taking a stand on the illegal immigration issue and Council members Ferry and Laurie Ender for being critical about how Kellar discussed the issue.

Gauny told the Council to take a stand on illegal immigration before April’s Council election.

In an interview during the meeting, Gauny said Kellar probably should have made it more clear that he was not representing Santa Clarita at the rally.

“He should have said it was his own opinion,” Gauny said. “It was not his intent to be divisive or malicious.”

Kellar endorsed Gauny’s run for a seat on the council.

In an interview Monday, Council candidate Harrison Katz, who also addressed the Council, said he agreed that the problem wasn’t Kellar’s stance against illegal immigration, it’s the “divisive rhetoric” Kellar used to explain his position that’s the problem.

“Anytime you call yourself a proud racist, it’s a mistake,” Katz said. “It brings embarrassment to our community.

“It was a very stupid comment,” he said.

Roger Gitlin, the leader of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen, told the Council in a prepared statement to add a Council agenda item clarifying the city’s stance on illegal immigration.

“Santa Clarita voters want to know where you stand (on illegal immigration) and they want to know before the April, 2010 election,” Gitlin said.

Officials from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said they actually expected more people to show up. Deputy Laurie Baylis, who provides security at Council meetings, said there is usually only one deputy at a meeting. Last night there were three.

“I wish this many people came to every City Council meeting,” Baylis said.

Signal City Editor Brandon Lowrey contributed to this report.
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