A banner reading "KKKaplan hates Muslims" hangs from an overpass in Sacramento. (Screenshot/Twitter)
A banner reading "KKKaplan hates Muslims" hangs from an overpass in Sacramento. (Screenshot/Twitter)

Sacramento councilmember harassed at meeting and targeted at home for Gaza stance

Lisa Kaplan, a Jewish member of the Sacramento City Council, has bolstered security at her home out of concern for her family’s safety after being targeted and harassed over her stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

Kaplan faced personal verbal attacks at a Jan. 23 city council meeting, and hours later was startled awake along with her husband when protesters banged pots and pans and shone a bright light into their bedroom window. Several days later, a banner was hung on an overpass on the I-5 freeway reading “KKKaplan hates Muslims.” Her social media is replete with insulting comments.

Kaplan, who has served on the council since December 2022, has been public about her opposition to any cease-fire in the war in Gaza without “an immediate release” of all hostages kidnapped on Oct. 7.

On Dec. 21 she posted on social media that backing a cease-fire without those conditions was a policy of “supporting Hamas” and “the genocide of Jews.” She wrote, “why are there no demands of the aggressor (Hamas) to stop hiding behind its innocent citizens they are killing?”

In another post, Kaplan wrote, “If you’re protesting & advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza, where were you in protesting the innocent killing of Muslims?” She shared a post showing the numbers of Muslims killed in wars in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and other countries.

The personal targeting at the January council meeting began as dozens of vocal anti-Zionist demonstrators spoke during two hours of public comment, demanding action on a cease-fire resolution proposed by councilmembers Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg chose not to refer the resolution for a hearing, saying while he was concerned about the “terrible suffering” in Gaza, the resolution was “far too one-sided” and would “further inflame” tensions in the community.

Those tensions were apparent at the meeting, where more than 70 people stood up to comment on the topic. Several referred to Kaplan’s posts on X (Twitter).

“Instead of getting commonsense statements regarding genocide, we get tweets from city councilmembers which gaslight activists and ignore the influence of European colonialism,” one man said, referring to Kaplan.

Another commenter, with a cloth hiding part of her face, complained that Kaplan and Steinberg, who is also Jewish, appeared not to be paying attention.

“Kaplan has been looking down or on her phone, distracted, perfectly displaying her obvious contempt for Palestinians,” she said. She ended her two minutes of public comment by saying, “Never condemn the resistance. Long live the intifada.”

Councilmember Lisa Kaplan (left) with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. (Photo/Facebook)
Councilmember Lisa Kaplan (left) with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. (Photo/Facebook)

After that, Kaplan got up and left the room. She told J. she went to a back room where she could continue listening to the remainder of the comments remotely.

“I felt it best to remove myself from the situation, because while the First Amendment does give people the right, unfortunately, to say some not so nice things, there is nothing in our Constitution, city rules and procedures [or] state law that says I have to stay and be subjected to that abuse,” Kaplan said.

Her exit drew boos and jeers from the crowd.

“As you walk out as you’ve always done in many meetings, Lisa, I don’t know why you don’t just sit down and listen to what we have to say,” said one commenter from Kaplan’s district.

When comment ended, Kaplan returned to her seat toward the meeting’s adjournment. Some shouted when they saw her come out, calling her disrespectful.

“I want to adjourn in the memory of a late colleague, and I do want to respond to some of the heartfelt testimony heard tonight, but I don’t think I’m going to because I fear being shouted down,” Steinberg said. “I may agree with much of what you say, but I also have a different opinion. So I will save it for another time.”

Steinberg ended the meeting without honoring the late former councilmember Lauren Hammond as he’d intended, due to the commotion.

Hours later, around 1:30 a.m., Kaplan said she and her husband were startled awake by a strobe light shining into their bedroom. She peered through a window and saw at least two people banging pots and blowing whistles. She called 911 while her husband called neighborhood security. The protesters dispersed just after her call, Kaplan said.

“This is done to intimidate,” she said.

Kaplan now has more robust home security with upgraded cameras, and has been working with police to better fortify her home, she told J.

Kaplan later explained to her children, ages 8 and 10, what had happened.

“My 10½-year-old looked at me and goes, so they don’t like you just because you’re Jewish? And I go, well, yeah, they don’t like my positions, and I also happen to be Jewish,” Kaplan said.

“So they don’t like me, and us,” Kaplan’s daughter responded.

Steinberg told J. that the protesters outside Kaplan’s home were “completely unacceptable on every level.”

“We sign up for intense public scrutiny, and rightfully so. But there’s a line, and those lines are getting crossed too often,” he added. Steinberg said he has also received personal threats and has stepped up his home security as well.

“Of course I’m concerned for my safety and the safety of my family. And at the same time, I absolutely refuse to cower to the haters and people who try to intimidate,” Steinberg said.

Kaplan said she feels the same way.

On Jan. 29, the “KKKaplan hates Muslims” banner on the overpass near downtown Sacramento was displayed next to an upside-down American flag. Kaplan posted a screenshot of it to X with a call for more kindness and less hate.

“It makes me sad … the lack of understanding and the lack of awareness of history,” she said. “We are facing a society that very much is resembling things that happened in the 1920s in Germany.”

Kaplan, who served for 20 years on the board of the Natomas Unified School District before running for city council, also served for six years on the board of the Sacramento Jewish Federation, and was board president from 2011 to 2013. In December 2011 she was invited to chaperone a Birthright trip, her first and only trip to Israel, “a place that you feel at home,” Kaplan said.

Steinberg wrote a nuanced op-ed on Jan. 27 in the Sacramento Bee explaining why he did not bring the cease-fire resolution before the city council, saying it would ultimately create more division among constituents.

Kaplan expressed that same concern to J.

“It’s not going to help things in Sacramento, and it’s going to fracture people,” Kaplan said. “I want Sacramento to come together, and there is no way any of this is bringing us together. So I’m going to stand strong, and I’m going to pray that they find a better way.”

Emma Goss
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for NBC Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.