A specter hangs over Shasta County; the specter of politically motivated violence. It’s hung in the air like wildfire smoke since last August, when Palo Cedro rancher, restaurateur and adult entertainment club investor Carlos Zapata threatened in a vitriolic speech at a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting to take up arms against the local government if it didn’t defy the state of California’s COVID-19 regulations.
Video of the speech went viral on social media and Zapata has since obtained some level of national notoriety, explaining to the right-wing talk show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, “[I]f we keep speaking our minds … if we keep threatening violence, we’re going to get pretty far, because I hate to say it, there has to be a threat of violence.”
That same threat of violence underlies the efforts of Zapata and others to recall three Shasta County supervisors, Joe Chimenti, Leonard Moty and Mary Rickert. Mind you, the three supervisors are Republicans and performed exactly as you’d expect Republicans to perform during the pandemic, as Chimenti recently explained to the Redding Record Searchlight.
“Unlike many other counties around California, this board has never enacted any ordinance and we have never burdened law enforcement with enforcement responsibilities pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “We promote enforcement through education, and we rely on the intelligence, common sense and community commitment of the citizens of Shasta County to fight against this contagious, deadly virus.”
Think about that for a second. Shasta County has relied on the intelligence, common sense and community commitment of its own citizens to battle COVID-19. I submit the vast majority of us participated in this community commitment.
Republicans, Democrats, independents, people of faith, atheists, etc. It didn’t hurt that our major employers supported COVID-19 precautions. We’ve been masking up, keeping our social distance, telecommuting, hybrid schooling, grocery-shopping online and getting vaccinated. We should all be congratulating ourselves for the progress we’ve made working together.
But the people involved in the recall movement don’t see it that way. That community that committed to surviving the pandemic? Us? We’re the enemy!
According to Terry Rapoza, prominent recall supporter, RWB member and State of Jefferson swag purveyor, the committed community members who masked up to survive the pandemic are just blindfolded sheeple hornswoggled by the Deep State.
Recall proponent Vladislav Davidzon has stated he doesn’t care how many people die from COVID-19—so far there have been 218 deaths and 11,722 cases in Shasta County—he’s never wearing a mask or getting vaccinated.
Davidzon has proposed totally defunding Shasta County Health and Human Services because it’s “socialism.”
Zapata told me he doesn’t personally know Davidzon, and Davidzon doesn’t speak for his group, meaning presumably Zapata’s Red White and Blueprint production company. But Zapata has certainly heard Davidzon speak at Shasta County Board of Supervisor meetings and does appear to share Davidzon’s hatred of “socialism.”
“Nobody wants to make a call for violence earlier than need be,” Zapata told Alex Jones. “But I’ve said this over the last seven months that there have come times over the last seven months where we have been pushed to a point of violence. You don’t vote your way out of socialism. Once it takes root, the only way to eradicate it is to fight with arms, to have a violent, violent confrontation, have blood in the streets.”
As Zapata would have it, the recall movement’s threat of violence against anyone who questions his cause is omnipresent. The problem with the movement so far is that’s all it offers; the constant threat of violence. No discernable reasons are given for why these particular three supervisors should be recalled. Nor are any programs or policies to replace present doctrine introduced.
Earlier this month, when Chimenti, Moty and Rickert were all served recall notices, and speculation began collecting in the stained porcelain bowl of Shasta County social media about who politically and financially supported the recall movement, I gave myself a courtesy flush. And then another.
This recall thing stinks so bad, I wondered if anyone was falling for it. Especially, for what I’m calling for the purposes of this story, “regular Republicans.” A regular Republican, to my mind at least, would denounce the violent rhetoric of the recall movement, as well as question the wisdom of recalling Republican politicians who’ve done nothing wrong.
So I put out a call for “regular Republicans” on a newly minted Facebook page that tracks the recall movement, Thought You Should Know. Local therapist, activist and radio show host Christian Gardinier conducted a similar query and got the first bite when Redding City Councilmember Julie Winter replied to his question about the recall.
“Thank you for reaching out to the council,” Winter replied. “I do NOT support the recall of any of our 3 supervisors. These 3 leaders are serving the community well and have done nothing that warrants a very expensive recall. There are so many good things happening in our community. This is the time to pull together, set aside differences and make Shasta County the place to live.”
Shasta County’s estimated cost for the recall is $200,000 to $400,000. I emailed Winter to let her know I was using the quote, and she added this.
“Thank you for reaching out. I do not think the RWB represents the views of most reasonable people (people of faith/no faith or political party) in our community.”
Winter is an elder at Bethel Church in Redding, which has openly endorsed Republican candidates for the past several election cycles. Because some Bethel members were involved with the production of the Red White & Blueprint docuseries, some observers have speculated that Bethel Church must be involved with the recall movement. Not as an institution, according to Bethel’s PR department.
Question: Does Bethel leadership (Bill Johnson, Kris Vallotton, etc.) support the Red White and Blueprint’s efforts to recall three conservative Republican supervisors?
Bethel PR: “Bethel Church prays for elected officials and those who work in our local, state, and national government. Our organization is not supporting a recall of any Shasta County Supervisors.”
Question: Carlos Zapata and other RWB members belong to a militia and use it as an explicit threat to back up their demands. Will Bill Johnson and/or Kris Vallotton denounce the violent rhetoric and tactics of RWB?
(Instead of denouncing the rhetoric and tactics of RWB, Bethel denounced the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, which Zapata celebrated on an Alex Jones appearance.)
Bethel PR: “As a leadership team, we condemn the acts of violence and destruction that occurred during the protest at the capitol building last Wednesday, January 6, 2021 in Washington D.C. No matter where on the political spectrum each person finds themselves, violence as an expression of protest is unacceptable. Through non-violent protests, our nation has a history of bringing a powerful voice to the public square, holding those in government accountable and catalyzing societal change. The right to peacefully protest should be protected for all, and those who engage in violence in the midst of protests contaminate this freedom and stigmatize this privilege, ultimately threatening our constitutional federal republic.
“Together, let’s pray over our nation, leaders, and those who were affected by the violence that occurred. May 2 Chronicles 7:14 be our guide: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
Question: Although RWB does not as of yet have any set policy positions, some members have called for the total elimination of Shasta County Health and Human Services. Does Bethel support defunding the health department to this, or any degree?
Bethel PR: As we have mentioned in the past, we have worked closely with Shasta County Health and Human Services and appreciate how they serve our community.
One of the first patterns I noticed in responses to my query for “regular Republicans” was that Republicans willing to go on the record had already left the party, some decades ago, some as recently as the 2020 election, like Mary Anne.
“As a regular Republican, I turned independent for the 2020 election,” she said. “I know there are many regular Republicans out there in the community who are very upset about this turn of events. My guess is that many are a part of this conversation. As for me, I will not return to the party until it is clear that they have made some changes in that direction.”
Five-time 1st Congressional District candidate Gregory Cheadle of Redding ran as a Republican candidate the first four times. He left the Republican Party in 2019 for what he terms the Trumpified party’s pursuit of a “white agenda” and ran as an independent in 2020. Cheadle offered long, thoughtful responses to my questions that demonstrated his knowledge of our district’s real needs.
Question: Should government be funding healthcare?
Gregory Cheadle: “The Preamble states that one purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to “promote the general welfare,” this would undoubtedly include healthcare. Moreover, it is the role of government to help those who cannot help themselves, and to help those who by misfortune (accidents, diseases, birth defects, etc.) or life station – elderly, handicapped, etc., do not have the wherewithal to access healthcare. Additionally, research must be funded under the umbrella of healthcare.
“However, government should not shoulder the cost of healthcare alone. The corporate tax across the board should be increased (the corporate tax should be tied to the rate and or number of employees to increase employment rather than increase robotization which would lead to increased unemployment) and companies that profit from selling products designed to be addictive or overconsumed (alcohol, tobacco, caffeinated sugar sweetened beverages, etc.) should not be able to walk away with colossal profits and leave society to pay for the illnesses caused by the consumption of said products.
“With healthcare expenditures topping $ 4 trillion, these costs will not decrease as a result of medication, they will only be decreased by prevention. Hence, the role of government should not only be to fund healthcare, but to encourage healthy living and keep diseased animals from entering the marketplace.
Question: RWB wants to recall three Shasta County supervisors because they followed the state’s guidelines for COVID pandemic precautions. Based on your knowledge of Shasta County’s response to COVID, does that response call for recalling the three supervisors responsible for it?
Cheadle: “Regardless of how I feel personally about COVID, the reality is that ‘elections have consequences.’ Those on the Board of Supervisors were duly elected by the people. The problem is not with those on the Board who are being recalled, the problem is an unwillingness of a given number of people to abide by the consequences of an election.
“People today are so angry if they do not get their way – their way is the right way. Those who seek to have the Board members recalled have not, at least to the best of my knowledge, proffered any solution to a challenge from the State if the County were to acquiesce to the demands of those opposed to the pandemic precautions.
“Additionally, had the county not followed the State’s guidelines and remained ‘Open’ and there was a statistically significant increase in cases and deaths which caught the eye of the media and resulted in negative press coverage which resulted in the loss of business in the area, would those seeking the recall be the ones to step up to the plate and make up for the losses sustained??? Are those in favor of the recall willing to have their taxes increased to pay the $200,000 to $400,000 cost for the recall??? Are those in favor of the recall certain that they will be able to vote in someone that will follow their rules? If so, then another recall is likely because the other side will be angry because they will feel that their interests are not represented!
“In short, the recall of the Board of Supervisors would not guarantee the result those seeking the recall hope for.”
Question: Some members of RWB have gone as far to call for the total elimination of Shasta County Health and Human Services because it’s “socialism.” While RWB has yet to announce its official policy, supervisor and RWB member Patrick Jones has implied HHS will be dramatically downsized. What’s your response to this eliminating/cutting healthcare services before the pandemic has ended?
Cheadle: “Again, regardless of how I feel personally about COVID, the world does not revolve around me or my beliefs. The role of Shasta County Health and Human Services goes far beyond its response to the pandemic, it provides a plethora of services. To cut the budget will do more harm than good and likely result in an increase in STDs, tuberculosis, and mental health needs. This is too high of a price for a county to pay for the sake of disagreement.
“The word ‘socialism’ is abused – if Shasta County HHS is a form of socialism, would not RABA, the post office, public schools, healthcare, social security, FICA, CPS, police, fire, Sherriff, etc., fall into the same category? The pandemic has allowed elected and unelected officials to wield power in unprecedented ways. A better ploy would be to curtail the powers of Shasta County HHS officials.”
Question: While one of RWB’s leaders is the son of Peruvian- immigrants, it’s mainly an all-white affair: Cottonwood militia members, State of Jefferson and former Tea Party members, hardcore Trump enthusiasts. Have there been times in the past four years when our local MAGA extremists appeared to be promoting a pro-white agenda?
“Cheadle: Since the inception of this country, it has been viewed as a country for Whites, to be governed by Whites, for the benefit of Whites. This is something that even Abraham Lincoln did not dispute when he was debating Stephen Douglas. Though Lincoln is credited with freeing the slaves, he freed them into a de facto form of slavery and NEVER saw them as equals.
“This is why there is such a stark contrast in the treatment of Blacks and Whites for the same crimes, why well-qualified Blacks and other non-Whites are denied opportunity and unqualified Whites are given opportunity, and why the greatest beneficiaries of Affirmative Action were and are White women instead of Blacks.
“When you look at the composition of the groups you referenced, I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in any of them who would champion causes that mitigate the historic and systematic discrimination Blacks have experienced or that of any other group that has been historically discriminated against. You would also be hard-pressed to find anyone in the group who would ‘take a knee’ against police brutality, or celebrate MLK Day by joining a march, or take to the streets in protest against the death of George Floyd.
“However, I doubt if you would have trouble finding anyone in the group who would disavow the belief that Christopher Columbus discovered America, that White privilege is a social fiction rather than an historic reality, or that the plight of Blacks is due to their own laziness, that the wealth gap had nothing to do with slavery and government programs (HOLC, FHA, VA, USDA, land grants, subsidies, lucrative government contracts, tax loopholes, bailouts) that benefited Whites and by their implementation purposely excluded Blacks.
“Am I saying that these people are mean-spirited racists? No! I’m certain that many of them are well intended and some of the nicest people you would ever meet. However, what I am saying is that, at the very least, the above groups, due to their Eurocentricity, which cloaks their White superiority complex, unwittingly promote a pro-White agenda. Their blindness to the sights of injustice and their deafness to the cries of injustice, render them incapable of discerning injustice toward others. Yet, they will be the first to scream injustice and discrimination when one not of their own is benefited at the perceived expense of one of their own. In short, the pro-White agenda wants the proverbial cake and the crumbs that fall to the floor.”
Believe it or not, Cheadle was chided for sticking with Trump and the Republican Party for as long as he did, until 2019, because by then many white Republicans had acknowledged, yep, Trump is a racist and bailed on the party. It’s difficult to gauge the percentage of Shasta County Republicans who support the recall movement, with its fascist undertones and the omnipresent threat of violence (Zapata) and perpetual cruelty (Davidzon).
But like several ex-Republicans who contacted me, George Parker’s break with the GOP came more than a decade ago, after the “Tea Party Coup” that occurred when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.
“Off the top of my head, the Red White & Blueprint is a logical evolution of the Tea Party,” Parker explained to me. “Both are rooted in partisan misinformation that riles up the base. The problem is getting worse, and I can trace it back at least as far as the Tea Party movement.
“The local leaders in both groups are the same, like Patrick Jones. The Tea Party movement was supposed to have been a tax revolt, but it was really based upon anti-Obama fervor. I know this for a fact. I still considered myself a Republican at the time. It whipped up anti-Obama frenzy with things like the birth certificate nonsense and making regular news outlets to be the enemy. The only news sources to be trusted were the ones that were on ‘our’ side.
“When information is controlled in that manner, it’s not hard to get followers to believe incredible things. And when movement leaders attack the credibility of any legitimate verification sources, the followers are kind of trapped into believing what they are told. It’s a trap they willingly entered, to be sure, but it’s still a trap. We can see this recent blow up start last year when the right was attacking the seriousness of the COVID-19 problem even as it was blowing up right in our faces.
“We saw it even more in response from the local Right to Redding’s BLM protest, when the Right believed that there was a bus caravan of antifa heading for Redding to tear the town down. They even believed that there were bricks stockpiled for antifa to grab. Reality didn’t change their minds. They STILL believe it happened the way they were told, even with a total lack of evidence. These are the same people behind the recall. The only ‘facts’ they are listening to are the ones they are hearing from their own directors.
“As a result, the only sources they are looking to for COVID-19 information are all questionable Internet sources. They don’t believe Dr. Anthony Fauci, for instance, who has a long record of expertise on public health matters, because it goes against their narrative. They don’t believe the science, they think they have ‘their own’ science, and therefore they think the pandemic was handled entirely wrong. They lack understanding of real history and Supreme Court cases surrounding public health and the Constitution. And they won’t believe anyone but their own directors on this, because they have been taught for over ten years, at least, that any other sources have been poisoned.”
With the exception of Julie Winter and the higher-ups at Bethel, I was unable to find any current Republican politico who was willing to comment on the record about the recall movement. This, several of my Republican sources informed me, is because people are genuinely afraid of Carlos Zapata and don’t want to be personally attacked on social media or in public by him or his recall crew.
Because this fear is designed to silence critical voices, I granted a Republican woman we’ll call “Brenda” anonymity to share her views about the recall movement. She is moderately involved in local politics and was reluctant to talk because she’s fire-spitting angry at the recall movement. She was raised not to cuss and was afraid she couldn’t help herself.
“A lot of people I talk to are scared about what they [the recall movement] are planning and what they are doing,” she said on the phone. She says Vladislav Davidzon’s speech personally attacking Supervisor Rickert during a recent board meeting made her physically ill.
“I’m terrified and fearful for Mary,” she said. “I’m a devout Christian and I pray for her safety continually.”
She refers to supervisor Patrick Jones as the “Redneck Renegade,” and predicts any attempts to dramatically defund Shasta County Health and Human Services will end in disaster.
“They’re gonna throw out the baby with the bath water,” she said. “It totally scares me that we have these vigilantes around. The county will just crumble if we don’t have funding for these programs. Where are they gonna pay for anything? I fully endorse Mary, Leonard and Joe. What they did was proper. They had a job to do, protect the citizens.”
“I see no call for a recall,” Brenda continued. “With the exception of Les Baugh, I have no respect for him.” When Baugh got a haircut from barber/militia leader/recall aficionado Woody Clendensen last year and posted a photo of it on Facebook, it blew Brenda’s mind.
“Baugh is supposed to lead, but he’s leading them down a path they don’t want to go on,” she said. “Baugh and Jones took an oath of office and sooner or later they’re going to have to answer for their actions in inciting people.”
Talk of recalling Baugh and Jones—who were censured by Chimenti, Moty and Rickert for violating COVID protocols in BOS chambers—is on the increase. Gregory Cheadle could be right: We’re setting ourselves up for a never-ending series of recall elections.
Meanwhile, the threat of politically motivated violence continues to hang over Shasta County. Things may fall apart if this threat goes unchecked and the center does not hold.
The center, in case you haven’t guessed, is us.