A small group of masked protestors holding up banners with antisemitic and white supremacist slogans in Novato, Sept. 9, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy Rabbi Menachem Landa)
A small group of masked protestors holding up banners with antisemitic and white supremacist slogans in Novato, Sept. 9, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy Rabbi Menachem Landa)

Novato mayor condemns group that displayed antisemitic banners

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Novato Mayor Susan Wernick this week denounced a group of at least eight masked people who held up antisemitic and white supremacist banners over the weekend on a busy corner just blocks from the Chabad Jewish Center of Novato.

The mayor addressed the incident on social media and at the start of Tuesday’s city council meeting.

“While it is within their First Amendment right to do so, that messaging has no place in our community or anywhere,” Wernick said at the meeting. “Novato stands united against hate and will continue to make this community a place where people with messages of hate feel unwelcome and uncomfortable.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Milberg concurred and thanked people who had reached out since the incident.

“I am very proud of the allies,” Milberg said at the meeting. “Being a Jewish person in this city, having allies … including the mayor — I don’t take that for granted — and the rest of the city council and the staff. So I just wanted to thank everyone for that.”

The incident happened two days before the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

On Saturday, some of the masked people carried a banner saying “Jews did 9/11” with the URL of an antisemitic conspiracy website. The incident happened around noon on a highly trafficked road in the Marin County city of around 50,000.

“Literally three blocks from our synagogue,” Rabbi Menachem Landa said.

Landa, who leads the Chabad center, said he heard about the antisemitic demonstration from passersby. “Within minutes I received a few calls from people in our community,” he said.

Police reached out to Landa and told him the protestors — some of whom held a banner saying “White Lives Matter” — left within about half an hour.

On behalf of the City of Novato and my City Council colleagues, I condemn all forms of hate — including what we all had to experience last weekend.

“The police were careful not to engage them too much, and they dispersed on their own,” Landa said.

Monica Castillo, a communications assistant for the city of Novato, told J. that the Novato Police Department had been “monitoring the situation in real time.”

In messages sent to Landa, Wernick called the incident “beyond upsetting” and Marin County Supervisor Eric Lucan said he was “disgusted by the hate-filled demonstration.” Landa shared the messages with J.

The false and baseless conspiracy theory that Jews were somehow behind the 9/11 attacks persists in antisemitic and white supremacist circles.

The demonstration follows a handful of reported antisemitic incidents in Marin County over the past few years. Two summers ago, someone posted “1488,” which is associated with white supremacy and Nazism, on a scoreboard in a county park. Months earlier, students in Marin public schools created antisemitic Instagram accounts and targeted Jewish students. More recently, the county has been hit with antisemitic leafleting.

In March, elected officials and members of the Marin County and Bay Area Jewish community hosted a press conference denouncing antisemitism.

Landa said that while the protestors over the weekend rattled the community, he was gratified by the support of public officials and police. He added that he encouraged Novato’s Jews to come together for Rosh Hashanah.

“Our response has to be the shofar,” he said. “There’s no bigger call of pride.”