The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Fireworks ban sparks a racist attack against Rohnert Park Vice Mayor


    With documented racial tension on the rise across America in the last few years, it was seemingly only a matter of time before Sonoma County was in the spotlight for acts of discrimination.

    On March 16, Vice Mayor of Rohnert Park, Jackie Elward, was the victim of a racist verbal attack over the phone from a community member opposing Elward’s stance on banning firework sales in the city.

    Rohnert Park is one of two cities in Sonoma County that still allows the sale and use of fireworks, but concerns of public safety has prompted some city council members, Elward included, to call for the ban.

    Elward, who became the first black woman elected to the city council last November, likes to make herself as accessible as possible for members of the community to voice their opinions.

    “I understand that in my role as a Council Member there will be times that I make decisions that some people in our community will disagree with. It comes with the job,” Elward stated in a Facebook post on March 16. 

    She said, “As such, I will always do my best to be accessible to everyone via email or phone regardless of our differences.”

    Sadly, this left the door open for an anonymous caller to berate Elward with racial slurs and other derogatory statements.

    “You are free to call me and be angry with me. I have thick skin and can take it,” Elward said, “However, as happened earlier today, I will not tolerate being told to go back to Africa along with being called the N word. This is totally unacceptable.”

    While she held her composure during the incident, there’s no doubt that this attack will stick with Elward for the rest of her life.

    “Why do people feel the need to go the extra mile to hurt like that?” Elwards said in an interview with The Press Democrat, “Do you really have to bring racial slurs to make yourself feel better?”

    Elward’s supporters quickly rallied behind her and showed their support for both her and other facing discrimination in the area.

    “It is 100% crucial that the people who commit these hate acts are revealed to the public. This person, whomever they are, is completely comfortable doing this and we cannot enable their behavior,” stated Sonoma County resident Jana Blunt in a comment under Elward’s Facebook post, 

    The nine mayors of Sonoma County towns and cities came together to speak out against this offensive act, stating in a letter, “We condemn all threats and racist behavior used as weapons to intimidate any member of our community including our locally elected officials”

    Mayor of Rohnert Park, Gerard Guidice, commented more on the matter, calling the attack, “disgusting and racist” among other things.

    “She’s living her American dream and it saddens me that someone would choose hatred in advocating for their personal agenda — in this case, fireworks,” Guidice said in a comment made to The Press Democrat.

    It has been made clear that racism is unfortunately something that is still very prevalent in our community, however, an attack like this only strengthens its opposition.

    “We need to be dealing with racism in Sonoma County,” Elward said. “It is a problem. Black female elected officials are being attacked.”

    According to a research study done by MIT Technology Review, women in politics on average receive 12% more abuse online than men. They also claim that the attacks on women are much more personal than what men see.

    The article states, “While male politicians primarily faced abuse that used general terms, women—and in particular, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi—were attacked with deeply personal and gendered language.”

    Elward’s last statement on her Facebook is somewhat of a rallying cry for those who are looking to help create change in her community, “Rohnert Park, we can do better.”

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