Updated: Jul 17, 2021
Riverside is the 4th most populous county in California-- and the 10th most populous in the U.S. It stretches from Los Angeles to Arizona and has around two and a half million people. The biggest cities are Riverside, Morena Valley, Murrieta, Temecula, Hemet, Indio, Menifee, Perris, Lake Elsinore, Cathedral City and Palm Desert. Historically Republican, the county has been trending blue but independent voters are decisive countywide. Voter registration:
No Party Preference- 21.5%
Reflecting the new trend, Obama, Hillary and Biden all won the county, Biden 528,340 (53%) to 449,144 (45%). There are all or part of 4 congressional districts in the county:
CA-36 performed at a D+18 level for Raul Ruiz in 2018
CA-41 performed at a D+30 level for Mark Takano in 2018
CA-42 performed at an R+13 level for Ken Calvert in 2018
CA-50 performed at an R+11 level for Duncan Hunter in 2018
Takano, a no-nonsense progressive stalwart, has the bluest part of the county, which includes the entire city of Riverside. It also includes the Riverside Convention Center, where a hate rally was scheduled for tonight. "Freedom of speech," said Takano, "is a fundamental human right ingrained in the Constitution of the United States, and over the past two days, Riversiders have proudly exercised this right to make it known-- loud and clear-- that Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are not welcomed to promote their hateful rhetoric in our community. I am thankful for the tireless work of those who stepped up and spoke out against this rally, and what it would have represented. I stand with you. We must never condone the reprehensible, shameful actions and behaviors of right-wing extremists in our city or anywhere."
Originally, the Matt Gaetz/Marjorie Traitor Greene Hate Fest was scheduled for Orange County, as "a gathering" in Laguna Hills. Once the Pacific Hills Banquet & Event Center learned that the "gathering" was an America First rally with Gaetz and Greene, it was abruptly cancelled by the management. The two neo-fascists were then turned down by every venue in Orange County they approached and they started looking in Riverside County.
Thursday Gaetz and Greene announced their circus had booked the Riverside Convention Center causing a flood of protests in the city. Riverside City Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro wrote that "The hateful and racist rhetoric that will be perpetrated at this event by these two well-known extremists has absolutely no place in our City." Yesterday, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported that city officials, who "expressed relief," were told by the operators of the convention center that the rally isn't taking place.
“I recognize this was a divisive issue in our community, and I am glad it has been resolved,” Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said, commending the operator in a statement.
“Riverside is a diverse and inclusive community, so it is heartening to hear that this event will not move forward,” Mayor Pro Tem Gaby Plascencia said. “I am disappointed we even got to this point, because these speakers are the antithesis of everything Riverside stands for.”
Earlier Friday, while a Riverside city councilman sympathized with the rally’s opponents, he said the city did not have the authority to cancel the event. On Friday night, that councilmember-- Ronaldo Fierro-- thanked residents for speaking out.
“Today we proved that the City of Riverside will not stand for hate and white nationalist rhetoric within our communities,” Fierro tweeted.
The rally, part of a nationwide tour featuring two out-of-state lawmakers with reputations for far-right politics and spreading misinformation, had been moved to the city after being kicked out of an Orange County venue earlier this month.
Organizers on Thursday announced the rally would take place in Riverside, and while they withheld the location citing security concerns, the CEO of the company that runs the city-owned convention center confirmed the downtown facility was scheduled to play host.
The news shook up Riverside County’s largest city, which has become more liberal politically in recent years as Democrats overtook the GOP in countywide voter registration-- a plurality of Riverside city voters are registered Democrats-- and a more left-leaning, diverse City Council replaced a set of predominantly White male Republicans.
Gaetz, who represents a Florida House district, and Greene, who represents one in Georgia, are known for their staunch support of former president Donald Trump, their rejection of COVID-19 safety measures and their false belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Greene also is known as a conspiracy theorist who has written pro-QAnon articles and reportedly said 9/11 was a government plot and that a California wildfire was the work of a “space solar generator” controlled by a Jewish banking family, among others.
Video clips have surfaced of her espousing racist and Islamophobic views, and a recording showed Greene, who has reportedly claimed the government orchestrated several mass shootings to gin up support for gun control, following and taunting a survivor of the 2017 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
While Greene has said her past social media posts don’t reflect who she is, 11 House Republicans joined all House Democrats in February in voting to remove Greene from her committee assignments as punishment for her statements.
Gaetz, who has said leftist radicals posing as Trump supporters were responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, is under investigation for an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. He has denied the allegations and said he’s the victim of an extortion plot.
Raincross Hospitality Management Corp., a private entity connected to the Riverside Convention & Visitors Bureau, runs the convention center for the city. In a Thursday evening statement, the city stressed that Raincross’ booking of the rally was “not an endorsement by the City of Riverside of the views that may be expressed at that event.”
In an email, Scott Megna, the convention center’s general manager, said the facility was contacted the evening of Friday, July 9, “regarding holding a political speech/event” on July 17.
“ … At that time they were informed the space they required for the event was available,” Megna said, adding that the convention center didn’t learn Gaetz and Greene would speak at the planned event until Monday, July 12.
“(Raincross) welcomes clients and guests with diverse opinions and beliefs and does not discriminate against groups who wish to hold lawful events at the center,” Megna said at the time. “Views and opinions expressed by clients and guests are theirs alone.”
Officer Ryan Railsback, spokesman for the Riverside Police Department, said the department had been developing plans for policing the rally.
Earlier Friday, Railsback said he did not know how many officers would be assigned to it or what the price tag likely would be for providing security.
City spokesman Phil Pitchford said event organizers would have been responsible for paying for security for the event itself and the city would have borne the cost of securing public areas outside the venue.
...City Councilmember Clarissa Cervantes, who was sworn into office Tuesday, July 13, after her June election win, said she was “shocked and disappointed” when she learned about the event at about 2 p.m. Thursday. Shortly after that, she said, she called for an emergency Riverside City Council meeting to address the matter. That session would have been held Friday, she said.
However, Cervantes said she needed three councilmembers’ support to schedule an emergency meeting and only one member, Mayor Pro Tem Gaby Plascencia, endorsed her call for one.
Cervantes also called for the city to “immediately re-evaluate” its arrangement with Raincross for managing the convention center.
She said the community should have been informed well in advance about who was coming to Riverside to speak at a city-owned facility and given the opportunity to talk about it in a public forum. Cervantes’ biggest concern, she said, is that the event could have threatened public safety.
“If it’s a public safety issue for Orange County, how will this not be a public safety issue for Riverside?” she asked earlier Friday.
Cervantes also objected to the message she anticipated that Gaetz and Greene would have brought to Riverside.
“This is not aligned with our core values” of diversity and inclusion, she said.
Cervantes added she has been receiving dozens of emails on the matter, as are other council members. Social media posts had urged people to call the city and convention center demanding the rally’s cancellation, and a petition to cancel the rally circulated via email.
Riverside’s progressive community is already planning to protest the event. Women’s March Inland Empire, which organizes an annual march calling attention to women’s issues, used social media to announce a No Hate in Our State protest outside the convention center at 5 p.m., two hours before the rally was scheduled to start.
In a Facebook post, Indivisible 41, a Riverside-area liberal group, said its board spent Thursday afternoon discussing the pros and cons of protesting the rally and decided against it, partially due to safety concerns.
“To us, it feels like throwing gasoline on a blazing fire and we do not want to give them the satisfaction of raging against ‘radical Democrats,’” the post read. “They are nothing but racist, sexist provocateurs who seek any kind of attention they can get. Let’s not give it to them.”
The group planned to support “legitimate activism groups” who want to protest, the post added.
The League of Women Voters Riverside also wanted the rally canceled.
“We appreciate that the convention center is a business and has a responsibility to its bottom line,” organization President Joan Donahue wrote in a letter to city leaders posted on Facebook. “But the convention center also has a responsibility, as a city funded entity, to respect the city’s ideals and reject business that will reflect negatively on our city’s image and leave residents questioning our city’s priorities.”
Tickets were to be free to reserve for general admission. But those who registered received an email asking if they wanted to upgrade to VIP status for $250 per person, which was to include the chance to take a photo with Gaetz and Greene plus preferred seating.
Proceeds were to go to the Put America First Joint Fundraising Committee, formed in Georgia in late April to support Gaetz’s and Greene’s reelection campaigns.
Rally critics on social media suggested reserving general admission tickets and not showing up, both to deny tickets to rally supporters and to depress the rally’s turnout.
City Councilmember Chuck Conder said earlier Friday that the rally should be allowed to take place.
“To me, this is truly a constitutional issue, the right of free speech, period,” Conder said. “I spent a career in the military fighting for our constitutional rights, the first one being freedom of speech.”
Conder said the “true test” of freedom of speech is when one doesn’t like someone’s message but permits them to speak anyway.
The America First rally is now slated to take place tonight at the Anaheim Event Center on Harbor Boulevard. Everyone is wondering if the half dozen local southern California colleagues of theirs will be making guest appearances-- Ken Calvert, Darrell Issa, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Garcia, David Valadao, Devin Nunes. Or don't they have the guts to appear at an America First rally? If you click the image, you'll be able to hear Traitor Greene carrying on.
And just hours before the two clowns were set to hit the stage with their right-wing propaganda and message of death, this happened. What a laugh! I'm sure the two of them are screaming their heads off now about California!