City of Lawrence ‘assessing options’ in the wake of racist and antisemitic hate speech shared at recent commission meeting

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

Members of the Lawrence City Commission react to racist comments shared by a public commenter via Zoom on April 16, 2024.

Updated at 4:04 p.m. Wednesday, April 17

The City of Lawrence is assessing its options after Tuesday’s City Commission meeting was interrupted by racist and antisemitic hate speech, a city spokesperson told the Journal-World Wednesday.

As the Journal-World reported, commissioners voted to take a 10-minute recess during the general public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting after what appeared to be three commenters’ repeated racist and antisemitic slurs, two of them showing images on their Zoom windows of Nazi imagery, including a flaming swastika.

The incident began after the commenters talked over another commenter, calling her a “f–king c–t” and berating her. The woman had spoken out after one commenter, whose name was listed as Chad Bastewell, decried diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives as “exclusion” and “stealing from white people.”

The video recording of the meeting posted to the city’s YouTube channel has since been edited to omit the incident, starting immediately before the group of commenters began cursing at the woman and repeating slurs.

The city confirmed Wednesday that it had removed “about 42 seconds of content, which constituted the disruption to the meeting.” It uploaded the edited version of the meeting video Wednesday afternoon. The edited version contains no note that material was deleted.

The city spokesperson told the Journal-World that city staff is assessing its options for how to mitigate the likelihood of any future incidents and will be “bringing forward solutions.” However, the spokesperson said the city doesn’t have anything specific to report at this time. The City Commission won’t meet again until three weeks from now, on Tuesday, May 7.

The name Bastewell appears in local reporting out of Bend, Oregon, where a Human Rights and Equity Commission meeting was interrupted by a similar outburst of racial slurs and antisemitic rhetoric. Searching that name returns results for hate speech invading a community meeting in Helena, Montana. The name Bastewell also appears in the meeting minutes for a city council meeting in Essex Junction, Vermont, which note that the public comment portion of that meeting included “several disruptive and inappropriate public comments … that were not germane to the city council’s meeting.”


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