VILLA PARK – About 500 demonstrators from various groups marched and chanted slogans against or in support of Councilwoman Deborah Pauly in front of Villa Park City Hall on Tuesday evening.
The majority of demonstrators were Muslim supporters who organized in response to a speech by Pauly last month at a Yorba Linda rally. About 50 people showed up Tuesday night to support Pauly.
The two groups faced off on the walkway in front of City Hall before the council meeting shouting at one another through bullhorns and displaying signs with phrases such as, “I’m a Muslim not a terrorist,” and “Deborah Pauly is a patriot.”
The protesters also chanted at and over each other: “Deborah Pauly, I’m your neighbor. Why are you such a hater,” “No Sharia law,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the racism’s got to go.”
The protest was largely peaceful, but the exchanges among the demonstrators were heated. A pro-Muslim supporter shouted at someone “You don’t even know what you’re fighting for, you racist pig.” The Pauly supporter retorted: “You’re a disgrace.”
About 20 sheriff’s deputies were on the scene to make sure the demonstrations were peaceful.
Pauly had security at the council meeting after a man was arraigned Tuesday on charges of threatening violence against her in a Facebook message.
Paul Dean Andrews of San Pedro was charged with a felony and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
The demonstrations are a response to a speech Pauly gave at a rally during an Islamic Circle of North America fundraiser Feb. 13, which many have interpreted as anti-Muslim. Her remarks are prominent in a YouTube video created by the Council on American-Islam Relations.
Many of the demonstrators on both sides were at the Feb. 13 protest.
Demonstrators said they’re angry that Pauly hasn’t apologized, and some demanded an official reprimand. But Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR California, said the main purpose of the rally was to show Pauly that Muslims are supported by the community.
“It would be nice if she apologized for her unbefitting behavior … but what’s more important is what happens after,” said Ayloush, referring to a general community reconciliation he hoped would occur.
The Villa Park City Council held a special meeting March 9 to address Pauly’s comments and issued a declaration saying that public comments by a council member do not represent the city. An earlier draft of the declaration named Pauly, but her name was omitted from the final draft. Pauly was asked to apologize but refused.
Pauly has said that her comments were directed toward the speakers at the charity dinner, who she believed to be terrorists.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik-Ali gave speeches at the Islamic Circle of North America fundraiser in Yorba Linda, and their presence sparked the rally at which Pauly spoke. Imam Wahhaj has been called an “unnamed co-conspirator” during the 1993 World Trade Center attack, and Malik-Ali has a YouTube video with almost as many views as Pauly’s in which he makes anti-Semitic remarks to a group of UCI students.
Pauly, who referred to the speakers as terrorists, said that she thought referring to Wahaj and Malik-ali by name would have endangered her life. But Pauly has also said that she regretted not having been more specific in her remarks.
“It’s just not sufficient,” said Waqas Syed, the deputy secretary of Islamic Circle of North America. “Instead of distancing herself and apologizing for her comments, she has actually justified them in a perplexing and confusing way.”
Villa Park resident and one of the organizers of the protest Nadia Hassan wants her to take responsibility.
“When you perpetrate that kind of hate, (her apology) doesn’t cut it,” said Hassan, who has helped organize Villa Park’s 100 or so Muslim residents into a group called Villa Park Peace Coalition. She wants Pauly to retract her statements and get to know the Muslims in her community
None of the Pauly supporters interviewed at the rally would give their last names.
Pauly’s comments have drawn criticism before, but she’s avoided official reprimand each time.
In March 2010, she reacted to the passage of President Barack Obama’s health-care legislation with a graphic Facebook status update, asking, “Do you feel sodomized?” She narrowly avoided council’s censure for the comment by a vote of 3-2.
In July, Councilman W. Richard Ulmer sought to remove Pauly from her committee responsibilities in response to a comment Pauly made about immigration at a Yorba Linda City Council meeting. He later removed the item from the council’s agenda because he said there was “a greater risk of turmoil … then there is benefit,” according to an article in The Orange County Register.
In the packed council chambers after the protest, the public comment section of the council meeting became a heated argument over topics ranging from Pauly’s speech to the merits of Shariah law. Sheriff’s officers stood at the doors and prevented anyone who wasn’t on the speaker’s list from entering.
Pauly listened as Muslim constituents and Pauly supporters repeatedly asked her to apologize or affirm her words with audible cheers and boos punctuating each comment from the hundreds of protesters outside.
Steve Amundsen, one of the original protesters from the Feb. 13 rally, spoke to clarify the pro-Pauly demonstrators aims both at the rally and at the council protest.
“We’re not here to protest all Muslims, just the ones who want to kill and enslave us,” said Amundsen to cheers.
Giovanni K. Milan, an Arab Christian and Villa Park resident, said that Pauly’s comments were narrow-minded and asked for an apology.
“When did the U..S become a Christian society? We are a secular society,” said Milan, but his comments were met with laughter by the meeting attendees who appeared to disagree.
“I think we’ll look back on this a long time from now and be embarrassed,” Milan said.
Picture and article: Courtesy OC Register: http://www.ocregister.com/news/pauly-293245-council-pauley.html