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Hate And Violence On The Ballot

In the past year school boards have been under attack, sometimes violently, by anti-LGBTQ+ extremists. Now they want seats on those boards.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
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LOKA protesters in Glendale (Kelly Stuart)

“LGBTQ parents, children, and community members are not safe if any of these candidates, who are aligned with groups that have brought violence to our communities and created a moral panic over LGBTQ existence, attain political power.”

– Daisy Gardner and Angela Givant

The rising levels of violent right-wing extremism in this country were spotlighted on January 6, 2021, when supporters of Trump’s “Big Lie” laid siege on the Capitol Building, assaulting police officers and threatening to kill elected officials. Locally, this violence was on display by those protesting Pride Month, including at Saticoy Elementary School where I was personally assaulted. In this edition of “Voices From The Community” series, Daisy Gardner, of Our Schools USA – Los Angeles and Angela Givant, GUSD Parents for Public Schools detail how supporters of these violent groups are on the ballot on March 5, 2024:

We are public school parents with children in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD). This past year we have watched with horror as several so-called “parental rights'' groups have brought anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and violence to our schools and school board meetings.

Allies of this same hate coalition are on the ballot this March 5th.

On June 2, 2023, outside of Saticoy Elementary in North Hollywood, we watched as a crowd of people in matching “Leave Our Kids Alone” shirts surrounded the school, angry that the school would dare to read a book called, “The Big Book of Families” to celebrate Pride month. The group included older men dressed in paramilitary garb who were later identified as Proud Boys and January 6th participants.

We heard one member of the Leave Our Kids Alone (LOKA) coalition commandeer a PA system and encourage the enraged group to “zip tie the principal” and hurt teachers and staff. LAUSD Board President Kelly Gonez had to be escorted out of the crowd for her safety. Anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic slurs were hurled at reporters. The LOKA coalition wanted to hurt someone, and they did. After the group of counter-protestors left, the LOKA coalition beat an unhoused man to the point of unconsciousness.

A few days later, on June 6, 2023, we watched as the LOKA coalition descended upon Glendale Unified’s school board headquarters, many wearing the same “Leave Our Kids Alone” shirts. A riot ensued. Video footage from journalist Kelly Stuart shows members of the LOKA group plotting to surround the police line to target the pro-LGBTQ side shortly before violence broke out. Again, Proud Boys, J6ers, and even a former MMA fighter with a knife strapped to his chest were identified at the riot.

LOKA brought many of the same people to a June 20, 2023, Glendale Unified Meeting. They were spotted again over the summer at Chino Valley, Redlands, Temecula, and Orange. Each time, non-stakeholders from out of town hijacked a meeting that was not theirs and intimidated LGBTQ families and children. At Redlands in September, several members of the greater LOKA coalition (both of whom were allegedly kicked out of the school board meeting for carrying knives) were filmed following a Safe Redlands Schools family to their cars. One of these men was also present at Glendale Unified.

Wrapped in the flag and angry (Courtesy of Kelly Stuart)

LOKA and their fellow “parental rights” groups did not confine their intimidation and harassment of LGBTQ parents, children, and allies to school board meetings. In September, journalist Tina Desiree Berg filmed LOKA frontman Manuk Grigoryan standing by as a fellow LOKA member bear-maced two LGBTQ activists at the anti-trans “Save Aiden” rally in Pasadena. In October, LOKA (along with Mom Army – Antelope Valley leaders) shut down a Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Fernando Library, blocking doors and entry points, allegedly impeding an LGBTQ person’s right to access a public space.

While the attacks on our LGBTQ community are shocking enough, what is more concerning is that some of LOKA’s allies are proudly on the ballot this March 5th.

In Glendale, both Jordan Henry and Aneta Krpekyan, candidates for the GUSD board, have refused to denounce the violence of their LOKA supporters and have led targeted harassment campaigns against teachers and queer community members. The website of Raquel Villalta, running for Board District 3 in LAUSD, shows a picture of her proudly posing with a LOKA member at a “Parental Rights Rally” where speakers, including Moms for Liberty LA, encouraged attendees to target teachers unions and public education.

And those are just the school board candidates. LOKA’s other allies include LA city council candidate Rudy Melendez and CA state assembly candidate Tony Rodriguez, both of whom participated in Instagram Lives with Grigoryan. CA state assembly candidate Patrick Lee Gipson (who extolls “parental rights” on his website), Glendale city council candidate James Clarke, and US congressional candidate Alex Balekian all use “parental rights” as a cover for anti-trans, anti-public school, anti-union goals, and have frequently appeared and rallied with individuals who voice open anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism.

LGBTQ parents, children, and community members are not safe if any of these candidates, who are aligned with groups that have brought violence to our communities and created a moral panic over LGBTQ existence, attain political power. In this upcoming election, we implore our fellow voters to understand their choice is not a matter of political party. It is a matter of safety. This March 5th, violence is disqualifying.

Daisy Gardner, Our Schools USA – Los Angeles

Angela Givant, GUSD Parents for Public Schools.

Pastor to the Proud Boys, Hansel Orzame of Ekklesia Church, Proud Boy Louie Flores, “J6 D.C. Tourist” Tony Moon, and GUSD School Board candidate, Jordan Henry. (Kelly Stuart)

____________________________

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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About the Creator

Carl J. Petersen

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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