Editor’s note: Due to misinformation provided to A News Cafe, the initial version of this story misstated the subject of the investigation initiated by Shasta County Sheriff Mike Johnson. The subject of the investigation is Alex Bielecki. We apologize for the confusion.
There may be potentially punitive legal consequences after all for a public speaker, Alex Bielecki, who hurled a racial slur during a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Although board chair Patrick Jones did not admonish Bielecki — who is white — for uttering the N-word during the meeting, Jones did eject from the chambers Nathan Blaze, the only African-American in the room, a move Jones’ justified because he said Blaze was disrupting the meeting.
Blaze had two outbursts during the meeting, several minutes apart. The first centered immediately on Bielecki’s use of a racist word. The second focused on Jones’ apparent willingness to not just accept that language during a board meeting, but eject Blaze for speaking out about the racial slur.
Late Friday afternoon Shasta County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Tim Garman relayed a message to ANC that he said came from Shasta County Sheriff Mike Johnson about the investigation into the racially-derisive incident that happened during Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.
According to Garman, since that meeting, the Sheriff’s Department submitted a formal criminal complaint to the Shasta County District Attorneys office regarding the slur. Garman said the the District Attorney will review the case and determine what happens next.
He added that the sheriff’s department is not second-guessing actions taken or not taken by Board Chairman Patrick Jones.
According to Garman, Chair Jones was not a part of the sheriff’s statement, nor was Jones informed of the announcement regarding the information.
Alex Bielecki: racist repeat offender
Bielecki is now the subject of an investigation initiated by the Sheriff’s Department. The incident involving Bielecki arose when he used the N-word a few seconds into his disjointed comment regarding tiny houses.
Despite loud gasps and exclamations of shock and disapproval expressed by some audience members, Jones stared silently straight ahead, and allowed Bielecki to continue speaking for his entire allotted 3-minute time limit.
But before Bielecki could finish, the only African American in the chambers — 34-year-old veteran, chef and satirist Nathan Blaze — spoke out. He repeatedly yelled for Bielecki to leave the chambers.
“Get out!” shouted Blaze as Jones relentlessly slammed the gavel upon the wooden dais.
“Get the hell out, you racist piece of shit!”
Jones’ gavel was intended for Blaze, not Bielecki.
Minutes later, as Jones offered his First-Amendment Constitutional justifications for allowing Bielecki’s use of racist hate speech, Blaze, who’d left the chambers in frustration during the remainder of Bielecki’s statement, returned. This time, he turned his wrath upon Jones.
“So saying the N-word’s OK …” Blaze began, before Jones repeatedly interrupted Blaze, and then ordered one of the on-duty Shasta County Sheriff’s Deputies to remove Blaze from the chambers.
When the deputy refused Jones’ directive on grounds that Blaze had done nothing illegal, Jones resorted to Plan B and ordered one of the county’s private security guards to remove Blaze from the chambers, who obliged, and insisted Blaze leave the chambers and not return for the meeting’s duration.
Later in the meeting, further confirming Jones’ lackadaisical attitude regarding Bielecki’s earlier racial slur, Jones once again welcomed Bielecki back to the lectern for yet another 3-minute comment, thanking Bielecki for a second time that evening for his comment.
Recurring hate speech
Tuesday was not the first time Bielecki has made racist statements during the public comment period. In fact, he’s a repeat offender who’s uttered other racial slurs and hate speech during his public comments at other board of supervisors meetings.
The following video sequence shows twice when Bielecki used a variation of the N-word, beginning in Jan. 29, 2019. Following Bielecki’s comments, former Health and Human Services Director Donnell Ewert spoke out strongly against the language.
In a subsequent meeting, then-board chair Leonard Moty returned to the subject. He set aside agenda time to discuss disapproval in the strongest terms of Bielecki’s racist language, and asked former county counsel Rubin Cruse for guidance on the subject.
Moty’s supervisor colleagues joined him with additional messages of strong disapproval of racial slurs and any form of hate speech. It was that meeting that inspired the supervisors’ creation of their united front against hate speech and racist language.
Bielecki, someone who routinely speaks during the public comment period, typically spews a booming, scattershot array of topics unrelated to the current topics, ranging anywhere from disparaging words about LGBTQ youth to blaming the country’s problems on “illegals” who flood the border.
During a Redding City Council Meeting’s public comment period last year Bielecki mentioned that he’d been banned from the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting, but didn’t say why. One insider said Bielecki’s board-meeting banishment was ordered by then-Chair Les Baugh, because of something Bielecki may have said in a threatening manner to Baugh and a county support employee.
Baugh did not return a message seeking comment about Bielecki, and whether Bielecki’s temporary absence from the supervisors meetings last year was related to alleged threats.
Shasta County Sheriff’s Department investigation
In an updated statement issued Saturday, Tim Mapes, Shasta County Sheriff’s Office’s Public Public Information Officer/Community Education Specialist, expounded upon the SCSO’s investigation:
After reviewing the incident that occurred at the May 30 Board of Supervisors meeting, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office made the decision to submit a criminal complaint to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office against Mr. Alex Bielecki.
It is the belief of the Sheriff’s Office that Alex Bielecki violated PC 415 (3) which reads “any person who uses offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.” At the discretion of the DA, this violation can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction.
Bielecki has a history of objectionable behavior involving the Board of Supervisors, to include threats directed at former specific board members that resulted in his legally being prohibited from attending meetings for a period of time. That order is no longer in effect.
Our report in this latest incident has been submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for a determination as to if charges will be filed.
The object of Jones’ deep ire
To those who’ve kept abreast with Shasta County calamities the last three years; who’ve attended supervisors meetings and are up to speed with local politics, it’s well known that Jones displays open disdain for Blaze, a comedian who’s poked fun at Jones on social media, primarily starting shortly after Jones’ early involvement with the Red, White and Blueprint docuseries.
During one meeting, Jones referred to Blaze as a domestic terrorist. Jones has made other public false statements about Blaze, such as saying Blaze has been removed from other meetings, and that Blaze used the f-word Tuesday. Neither statement is true.
That’s why, for many frequent board-meeting observers, Jones’ negative treatment of Blaze was not surprising. However, Jones’ behavior toward Blaze Tuesday appeared more personally vindictive than usual because of the added humiliation for Blaze, the only African American in the room; a man whose race fit Bielecki’s target-audience of one.
Reached for comment Friday, Blaze expressed a measure of guarded vindication.
“I am very happy to have heard that the Sheriff was filing these very necessary charges. I hope that the DA is willing to pick this case up and set an example that using such oppressive language is not to be tolerated,” Blaze said.
He added that he believes Bielecki intentionally directed his comments toward him, looking in Blaze’s direction as he spoke the N-word.
“No other word in the English language carries as much weight and negative history as that word,” Blaze said. “It was used to oppress an entire group of American citizens for hundreds of years, and still is to this day.”
Once again, Shasta County’s in the dirty spotlight
Extra noteworthy in Tuesday’s meeting was the glaring contrast between the five supervisors’ reactions after hearing a racist term used during the board meeting.
Supervisors Jones, Chris Kelstrom and Kevin Crye were silent after the dramatic scene that played out within the board chambers that ended with Blaze being removed from the chambers after he spoke out during the meeting Bielecki’s racial slur and being removed for his objections.
In fact, as the Securitas security guard herded Blaze toward the exit, Supervisor Crye laughed, shook his head and smiled broadly at interim CEO Mary Williams, who sits beside him on the dais.
Jones, Kelstrom and Crye’s tight-lipped non-response was the opposite of Supervisor Rickert’s public statement, who spoke out forcefully against hate speech and racism.
Rickert said during Tuesday’s meeting that supervisors should monitor decorum, language and behavior during the meetings, and if someone says or does something inappropriate, the person’s microphone should be immediately turned off, and the person removed from the chambers.
Also Tuesday, Vice Chair Garman said racism sucked, and while he said there was no room for it in society, he also noted that he could see both sides, and the need for decorum.
Friday, Rickert was grateful for the Sheriff’s actions.
“I am pleased that Sheriff Johnson is taking this racial slur seriously. We should have zero tolerance for such language in our board chambers and in our county,” she said.
“After receiving many, many emails and voice messages in my county system, I want to state unequivocally that I am thoroughly disgusted with the comment made by the speaker during public comment, and the subsequent offensive behavior he exhibited directed towards Mr. Blaze. Certainly there could have been a more effective way to diffuse the situation rather than what took place.”
Since Tuesday, the story about the racial slur that ended with ostensibly the wrong person banished from the board chambers has been reported by numerous outside media outlets.
The incident also resulted in formal statements of disapproval and condemnation by several North State civil-rights minded organizations.
“When such words are allowed in the halls of government, it is difficult to not view those behaviors and attitudes as sanctioned or treated as small matters by decision makers and, by extension, an imagined broader community,” said an excerpt from the Shasta Equal Justice Coalition press release.
“Allowing such statements to pass without comment or redress undermines public trust and the possibility for all community members to feel welcomed and included at such meetings, much less to feel safe offering their own public comment,” the SEJC went on to say.
Likewise, the Board of Directors of United Way of California submitted a position statement regarding the Tuesday controversy that said, in part, “United Way of Northern California is deeply concerned about this incident and the way it was handled by the Board. UWNC stands firmly against racism and bigotry in all forms.”
Also, the United Methodist Church’s Anti-racism Task Force Chair took her admonition to another level.
“We expect nothing less from our elected representatives,” said part of the letter addressed to supervisors.
“Public amends by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors needs to be made. Mr. Jones needs to be reprimanded for his behavior, removed as chair person and or removed from office. A strict code of conduct at Board of Supervisors meetings needs to be implemented immediately.”
Some North State citizens have organized a “No Place For Racism In Shasta County” protest 8:30 a.m. Tues., June 6 prior to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors regular 9 a.m. meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting will be especially significant as it’s the first day that David Rickert (no relation to Supervisor Rickert) will be seated as the county’s new board chair.
Meanwhile, Vice Chair Garman admitted he expected Tuesday’s meeting to be loud and crowded.
“Hopefully, the protestors will remain peaceful,” Garman said. “I do not take this situation lightly, and I hope others take a stand against racism too.”