SANTA CLARA — Three city councilmembers said a councilwoman accused of refusing to let her Korean American colleague speak during a recent “Stop Asian Hate” rally has a history of unkind behavior toward her political rivals.
During an hour-long argument council meeting this week, Councilmember Kevin Park — the first Korean American to serve on the Santa Clara Council — excoriated Councilmember Kathy Watanabe and said she’s exhibited a “pattern and history of… ignoring me or simply trying to shut me down.” His comments echoed those of Vice Mayor Raj Chahal and Councilmember Karen Hardy.
The “Stop Asian Hate” rally held at the Santa Clara library on March 31 was organized by Watanabe amid growing fear among the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the wake of a rise in hate crimes targeting Asians and the killing of six Asian American women in Atlanta, Ga. March 16.
Several elected officials spoke during the rally including some councilmembers, but before the event ended, Park asked to say a few words but was shut down by Watanabe. In a live stream of the event, Watanabe can be heard telling Park, “No, I’m sorry, this is my event. That’s OK. Thank you anyway. Thank you for being here. I appreciate the support.”
Park’s comments on Tuesday came after two dozen community leaders signed a letter demanding Watanabe’s censure and that she apologize. Several people spoke during the meeting Tuesday to denounce Watanabe, including The Health Trust CEO Michelle Lew and Richard Konda, executive director of the Asian Law Alliance, who said Watanabe’s refusal to let Park speak was “wrong.”
“Santa Clara is nearly 40 percent Asian and allowing an Asian councilmember a minute or two to speak would have been the right thing to do,” Lew said. “A public apology and censure are in order. We need people who support Asian Americans, not elected leaders who stifle Asian American voices.”
Watanabe, who spoke after public comment, apologized to the Asian American community and Park for any offense her actions may have caused, mirroring a statement she made last week.
Watanabe reiterated that she did not allow Park to speak due to time constraints, and that there was no ill intent involved.
“I could not allow him to (speak) as there was not sufficient time,” she said. “If there had been or if he had RSVP’d I would have accommodated him. It’s unfortunate that this event that highlighted that our community came together to stop hate, that it has become a controversy about Park not speaking.”
Mayor Lisa Gillmor came out in support of Watanabe and attempted to cool tensions among the councilmembers. She frequently interrupted Park to correct the record about who was allowed to speak at the rally and who wasn’t, adding that anyone who knows Watanabe “knows that you would not do anything to hurt people or to not include people.”
“Watanabe apologized and I think it’s time for us to work together and try a positive approach as opposed to the negative, with lemons learned from everyone here,” Gillmor said. “We’re all learning lessons as we go along and some are very tough.”
But Park and other councilmembers said Watanabe isn’t kind to them and that she has snubbed them in the past. Park said Watanabe hasn’t returned his greetings, has ignored him publicly and has “shut him down” in the past, a pattern of behavior which he said he has been ignoring for some time but which was now on full public display.
“No matter what councilmember Park accepts from Watanabe, it’s about what it looks like for the Asian community,” Park said. “And when you have a mayor that doesn’t understand what it looks like from the minority perspective or hurt perspective, that’s when I start to think that the problem here is the way I was not allowed to speak, the way we’re trying to deflect her actions and say everyone was at fault.”
“The narrative Watanabe wants to put forth is not the experience of the people who were actually there,” Park said.
Vice Mayor Raj Chahal also said that he has been snubbed by Watanabe, and he believes she has a grudge against him.
“I thought I would never say this on the dais, but councilmember Watanabe has snubbed me, has not returned greetings or spoken to me multiple times,” Chahal said. “Not only me, there’s another council member with whom she did that. This thing is a pattern and other councilmembers can attest to that. I can’t accept it when it happens to other people.”
Councilmember Karen Hardy said she, too, has witnessed Watanabe’s “reticence to be kind and cordial, especially toward Vice Mayor Chahal.”
“I watched it for over two years and it has bothered me a lot,” Hardy said. “I saw this as a pattern rather than a one time event. That’s probably what has bothered me the most.”
Watanabe did not speak again during the meeting, and she could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Click this link for the original source of this article.
Author: Aldo Toledo
This content is courtesy of, and owned and copyrighted by, https://www.eastbaytimes.com and its author. This content is made available by use of the public RSS feed offered by the host site and is used for educational purposes only. If you are the author or represent the host site and would like this content removed now and in the future, please contact USSANews.com using the email address in the Contact page found in the website menu.