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Is "Take Back Watsonville" being founded on Racist Rhetoric?
Quickly morphing from a small neighborhood watch group to a spin-off of Take Back Santa Cruz, Take Back Watsonville has announced it will hold its first major public meeting on October 9, amidst racially charged and pro "American" rhetoric from its founder, Paul Gutierrez. After being featured as a crime victim in an article in the Watsonville Patch, Gutierrez was then made a blogger for the website where he has had the opportunity to establish and promote Take Back Watsonville and raise funds for the new organization, all in less than a month's time. In one comment Gutierrez left on an article in the Watsonville Patch, referring to an individual he perceived to be a member of the Watsonville Brown Berets, he wrote, "You wont be apart of the solution because people like you are the problem. we all get your so proud to be a brown beret and so proud to be Mexican. go the hell back to Mexico if your so proud and hate Americans so much. don't forget its because of people like me that you have your freedom of speech and to be in whatever group you like."
Paul Gutierrez's "rise" to the position of Take Back Watsonville founder was first fueled by coverage in the Watsonville Patch, an online news website funded by the corporation, AOL Inc., formerly known as America Online, which is based in New York City. On September 10, Watsonville Patch editor Jennifer Squires reported in an article titled "Crime Wave Spurs Vigilance on One Watsonville Street" that Gutierrez, who only moved to Watsonville in August of this year, had started a neighborhood watch program shortly after his truck was stolen from his Palm Avenue home.
A week later, Gutierrez was officially blogging for the Watsonville Patch. His first post was, "We Need to Stand Up and Fight" on September 18, followed by, "Calling All Residents" on September 20, "Neighborhood Watch Takes Off!" on September 23, "Take Back Watsonville" on September 23, "Take Back Watsonville Website!" on September 28, "Take Back Watsonville Meeting Oct 9th!" on October 2, "Take Back Watsonville: Calling out to the Watsonville Brown Beret" on October 3, and the most recent, a fund-raising attempt with, "Take Back Watsonville needs your help," posted on October 8.
In addition to the initial article about Gutierrez, Squires published an article for the Watsonville Patch on September 13 titled "Crime-Fighting Effort Spreads" which credited the neighborhood watch program Gutierrez initially founded as motivating a Watsonville Police Department raid on a "problematic" house.
The Watsonville Brown Berets became a target of the rhetoric early on when another Watsonville Patch blogger, David H. Perez, left a comment on the September 10 article about Gutierrez, calling the Brown Berets, "an organization whose background teaches disrespect for our police and our military," He also criticized their connections to local government. The body of that first article described Gutierrez as "ex-military".
Gutierrez brought up the topic of race in his first blog post about his neighborhood watch group on September 18, saying in a call out to, "stand up and fight," that, "It is time to fight for each other as AMERICANS forget the color, forget the race, forget the gender, forget the sexual preference." Gutierrez didn't elaborate on which race or races should be "forgotten", but a commenter on that post implied he was talking about Mexican people.
On subsequent blog posts, Gutierrez became more and more sensitive to the race based critiques of his rhetoric, and when criticized by a Watsonville Patch commenter who identified herself as a member of the Watsonville Brown Berets, that organization became a new target of his.
In an October 2 Watsonville Patch article titled "Help Out: Brown Berets Gear Up for Massive Bike Repair Weekend," an anonymous commenter vaguely accused the Brown Berets of misconduct in relation to the alleged manner in which they obtained bicycles for a past charity event. The inner workings of the Brown Beret's finances were also challenged, which in addition to the bicycle-related accusation, was refuted by others commenting on the article.
"Paul Gutierrez" then left a comment which called the Brown Berets a "gang" and then went on to say, "it is unfortunate that we may not work together and i hope one day we can all be peaceful with each other hand in hand and fight for AMERICA not for race or gender or for creed."
Complaints of reverse "racism" came quickly from commenters defending the rights of "white" people in the area. In another Watsonville Patch comment, a user accused the Brown Berets of being racist due to the emphasis on the color "brown" in their name, and on October 3, Paul Gutierrez posted videos in the Take Back Watsonville Facebook group that in his view supported the notion that the Brown Berets were "racist" towards white people.
The Watsonville Brown Berets were founded in 1994, and according to their website they are, "a community defense force acting for the liberation and amelioration of our barrios." The organization is very active in the local community, and recently made the news for their part in the large turnout on September 29 at the annual Peace and Unity march, which is held to address the issues of gang violence locally. The organization is racially inclusive, and their website emphasizes "absolute equality" where, "There will be no hierarchy, our positions of responsibility are for the service of the whole organization and are shared equally between female and male Brown Beret members. There will be no machismo (sexism), egocentricity, ageism, or racism within our organization. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated."
On the Take Back Watsonville website, the group pledges "Together we will rise above the gangs and anti American groups in our community," and then goes on to make their own statement against racism: "This is NOT about race. This group focuses on crime and gang issues and also drug abuse. We here have had enough with being called names and being called "racists". This is our PUBLIC statement that we are NOT racist nor do we tolerate it."
Gutierrez' blog post on October 3, titled "Take Back Watsonville: Calling out to the Watsonville Brown Beret.", again escalated the rhetoric, using racially charged language by asking to see the Brown Berets' "papers" and for them to prove they are "legal" with regards to their finances. In the blog post he demanded the following of the Watsonville Brown Berets: "Provide the proof of your goodness and show the proof. You set up a meeting with me (personally) and show all the proof that its legal and we can start defeating these nasty rumors that spread about you guys(WBB)."
That article received quite a few angry comments in response to the language used, and at least one commenter attempted to explain to Gutierrez what "racism" was, but a Patch Senior regional editor for Northern California, Ari Soglin, removed all of the comments due to what he called, "name-calling and other inappropriate behavior."
Watsonville Patch's terms of service requires that users not transmit content that, "promotes racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual." It is unclear why Gutierrez' previous comments on other Watsonville Patch articles were allowed by Patch editors to stay, while the comments complaining about his racist rhetoric and attempting to explain the concept of institutional racism were removed
In an October 5 Watsonville Patch article, it was reported that rocks were thrown through the windows of Gutierrez' home, and in his most recent blog post for the Watsonville Patch, posted on October 8 and titled "Take Back Watsonville Needs Your Help," Gutierrez, in five sentences, makes a plea for financial donations to Take Back Watsonville.
Similar attitudes about discrimination (and law enforcement) also prompted divisions within the community when Take Back Santa Cruz (TBSC) was first founded in the City of Santa Cruz in 2009. TBSC was criticized for cultural insensitivity when they invaded local neighborhoods in which they did not live to hold their "positive loitering" events. TBSC also sponsors "clean ups" of natural areas that often contain homeless camps, and when concerns were raised by community members that the proper precautions were not being taken to ensure that peoples' valued possessions were being protected, the concerns fell largely on deaf ears. In addition, many community members wanted TBSC to address the issue that local police are themselves often a source of violence in the community, and that supporting the authorities unconditionally would be to deny the problem of police misconduct exists, and is in its self a community safety issue.
Take Back Watsonville will be meeting on Tuesday, October 9, from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm. According to their website, the meeting will include, "Meeting with Neighbor hood Solutions and WPD. This is a pot luck so please bring a beverage (NO ADULT BEVS) or food dish. starts at 6:30pm all residents are welcome. we will be taking donations and sponsorship at this event. Shirts are $15 and women alarm kits are $50 donation. with your donation you will receive a tax write off form from BKE 501(c)3."
The following passage was first posted as a comment by "Paul Gutierrez" on an article in the Watsonville Patch, and then re-posted by "Found Peace" aka Paul Gutierrez in the Take Back Watsonville Facebook Group:
"maria is a brown beret and this is what my response to her was.-if you missed what i said on the other article Maria- this is what i said to you-maria you need to stop . your hatred is disgusting and you need to chill out. your racist remarks and attitude are not warranted. you rush to judge people but yet you don't see that your harassment and hypocritical thinking and attitude really suck. its people like you that cause wars and issues that shouldn't be there. you have called me a racist on everything i post. you wont be apart of the solution because people like you are the problem. we all get your so proud to be a brown beret and so proud to be Mexican. go the hell back to Mexico if your so proud and hate Americans so much. don't forget its because of people like me that you have your freedom of speech and to be in whatever group you like. but when you take advantage of it , it is an embarrassment to not only yourself but to your family and kids. i feel sorry for you. that you are so caught up with hate and anti Americanism that it runs your life. i have 2 tips for you- 1st is to realize this is AMERICAN NOT MEXICO, if you love Mexico so much go home. 2nd is love GOD and love yourself and stop hating everyone.
"This is all my opinion, im not chewing your ass cause your Latino, im chewing it cause your just a rotten apple in the city who is part of the problem, and i feel horrible that your so narrow minded and stupid. i thought you were just ignorant but it seems you just dont know better and plain stupid."
Watsonville Patch articles:
"Crime Wave Spurs Vigilance on One Watsonville Street" by Jennifer Squires
"Crime-Fighting Effort Spreads" by Jennifer Squires
"Help Out: Bike Shack Gears Up for Massive Bike Repair Weekend" by Maria Grusauskas
"Two Rocks Smash Windows of 'Take Back Watsonville' Founder's Home" by Maria Grusauskas
Paul Gutierrez blog posts:
"Blog: We Need to Stand Up and Fight"
"Calling All Residents"
"Neighborhood Watch Takes Off!"
"Take Back Watsonville"
"Take Back Watsonville Website!"
"Take Back Watsonville Meeting Oct 9th!"
"Take Back Watsonville: Calling out to the Watsonville Brown Beret."
"Take Back Watsonville needs your help."
Other blogs on Watsonville Patch:
"Community United: A Proposal" by Amy
October 5 - Central Coast News KION/KCBA
""Take Back Watsonville" Founder Not Backing Down" by Ricardo Navarro
For more info:
Take Back Watsonville
Take Back Santa Cruz
Watsonville Brown Berets
The following passage appeared in an article written by Stephen Baxter and was published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on October 8, titled "Take Back Watsonville plans first meeting" (see: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/watsonville/ci_21728580):
"When Gutierrez held a potluck dinner for neighbors at his home a few weeks later, some of the gangsters showed up and tried to tell residents not to call police. They accused Gutierrez -- who is of Latino and Italian heritage -- of being a racist. He denied it."
Paul Gutierrez posted a link to this article in the Take Back Watsonville group on Facebook, and then in the comments section, a commenter says. "Good article...but it says some gang members were present at the last potluck/meeting...was this a misprint?"
Gutierrez (aka "Found Peace") responded: "There were gang members there I just told home not to specify the name of their anti American/ Mexican brown hat crew.... Hint hint."
Another commenter responds that calling the Brown Berets will "weaken the cause" of Take Back Watsonville, and Gutierrez continues to make more allegations about the organization.
This adds further questions as to the credibility of Gutierrez; was he telling Baxter of the Santa Cruz Sentinel that gangsters showed up to his home for a neighborhood watch meeting, when in fact it was members of the Watsonville Brown Berets who were concerned that Gutierrez was possibly running a racist organization?
The Sentinel published that gangsters showed up at his home for a potluck, and it appears that gangsters by Gutierrez' own accounts on Facebook were not, in fact, in his home.