Thursday's meeting of the Cedar Park City Council was a study in contrasts.
A large group of people, including some council members who have been embroiled in controversy this summer, used the public comments portion of a proclamation that recognized October as Bullying Prevention Month to tout conservative values.
A smaller group spoke at the end of the meeting tying some of those same council members to hate groups.
Standing beside Leander Independent School District trustee
After the presentation, Mayor Corbin Van Arsdale said citizen Amy Kay wanted to provide a comment against bullying, in what he called “a positive perspective.”
Kay said many conservatives in the community had experienced various forms of bullying for supporting conservative opinions and views and for supporting conservative Council members. She said they had experienced doxing, character attacks, property damage and death threats as well as had their businesses and families targeted.
“I would like to ask how many in this room can relate or have been an example of this,” she said. “Please stand, and please remain standing.”
Dozens stood in the audience, including alt-right activist Christopher Ritchie, along with Van Arsdale, Kirkland, Council member Tim Kelly, Council member Anne Duffy and Council member Dorian Chavez.
Speakers at the end of the meeting specifically called out Ritchie, Kelly and Chavez as having ties to far-right, white supremacists and extremists.
"We know that far-right, white supremacy kills more people than all other extremism in this country --- not according to me, according to the FBI," Christopher Crow said, in the latter part of the meeting.
With those who feel they had been victims of bullying due to their conservative views still standing, Kay said they were not there to complain about it.
"They have not instilled a spirit of fear in us, but they have emboldened us, strengthened us, mobilized us and united us,” Kay said.
Kay said they wanted to thank Council members Rodney Robinson, Chavez, Kelly and Kirkland for keeping conservative standards that they and those who voted for them hold dear.
Scarlett Clay then commented on bullying as well, calling herself a Christian apologist.
“When I’m engaging people online, I make a lot of arguments using historical, philosophical, scientific and theological arguments for God’s existence, for the authority of His word, for the sacredness of marriage,” Clay said. “What I don’t do is intentionally try to slander and publish false claims about people.”
Clay said the Southern Poverty Law Center had recently charged her as being a part of a hate group.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center would call my Sunday School class a hate group,” Clay said. “They would call our Vacation Bible School a hate group. So that claim should be dismissed.”
Megan Kelly, daughter of Council member Tim Kelly, then showed a video as her public comment.
The video began with “BULLYING HAS UNITED US ALL” and then went into interviews with several individuals who said they had been the victims of bullying due to their conservative views. Some of the individuals in the video had distorted voices and faces covered in order to “protect from further harassment.”
Megan Kelly, Council member Tim Kelly and Houston MassResistance Leader Tracy Shannon appeared in the video but their faces were not obscured.
“If they can shut down your right to speak, then they have won,” Tim Kelly said in the video. “The platform that you might stand up for is a platform that is antithetical to the way they want America to progress.”
After the video, Chavez could be seen nodding his head in approval as a large portion of the audience applauded.
Later, during the second portion of public comments at the end of the meeting, relating to non-agenda items, Julia Bates showed a video detailing Chavez’s association with several individuals who are known members of hate groups, including Christopher Ritchie.
Ritchie is an alt-right activist who travels across the country to attend alt-right events, including the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, South Carolina in Aug. 2017. Ritchie associates himself with several alt-right groups including Proud Boys, MassResistance, Patriot Prayer and the Texas Patriot Network.
Crow commented about stochastic terrorism, which is defined as “the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.” Crow gave examples such as the recent mass shooting in El Paso, in response to fear invoked by President Donald Trump.
Crow said a video Chavez posted Sept. 12, which called on conservatives of Cedar Park to get active because “evil satanists, witches and Antifa are trying to take away their personal freedoms and ways of life,” used the same rhetoric.
“I can’t help but find a link between your rhetoric there,” Crow said. “We’ve already established that Dorian Chavez has ties to far-right, white supremacists and extremists."
Crow then addressed recent behaviors of Council members Kelly and Chavez on social media. Though not permitted to answer, Crow asked the council --- specifically Kelly and Chavez --- about their intent.
“I don’t know what happened to you guys before now,” Crow said. “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make this acceptable --- calling people witches and satanists and stoking division. What is your intent, if not to stoke fear? The politics of fascism start from the conversation of ‘Us vs. Them.’”
The council then went into Executive Session, after which Chavez made a final comment.
“I’m going to continue standing my ground,” Chavez said. “You can say whatever you want about me, lie, do whatever, but I will continue to do what I’m doing.”