Residents of Huntington Beach in California’s Orange County have raised concerns about an influx of Ku Klux Klan propaganda ahead of a “White Lives Matter” rally planned on April 11.
According to the Los Angeles Times, pamphlets featuring KKK propaganda were found along 18th Street in downtown Huntington Beach. The fliers, which were wrapped in plastic bags with rocks, featured drawings of a hooded figure and a burning cross beneath the words “White Lives Do Matter” and “Say no to cultural genocide.”
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said Monday that she was alarmed by the proliferation of KKK paraphernalia in her city and that countless residents have expressed anger about the situation.
“The KKK fliers are a cowardly attempt to drum up support for a hateful cause that is in contradiction to Huntington Beach’s values of integrity, respect and inclusivity,” Carr said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for racism in our City, and while we absolutely support the First Amendment, we stand strongly against hiding behind it to promote hate.”
Despite the mayor’s condemnation of the KKK fliers and the upcoming rally, a spokesperson for the Huntington Beach Police Department confirmed that there was little that the police department could do to prevent the rally from taking place, referring to it as “free speech activity.” He noted, however, that the police will be monitoring the situation.
Huntington Beach City Council hosted a meeting Monday evening to further discuss the pamphlets, which eventually led to a vote in favor of denouncing the KKK and condemning hate crimes against minorities. However, during the open-session meeting, several residents taking part in the virtual meeting accused Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz of empowering white supremacists.
“You have your time to shine; talk to your people and tell them not to come to our city,” one caller told Ortiz. “You are empowering these people, and it’s fucking disgusting.”
Ortiz—the former UFC champion turned MAGA politician—has been a lightning rod for controversy since being elected to city council last November. He routinely used his platform to spread dangerous conspiracy theories related to the far-right QAnon movement as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, which he routinely referred to as a “plandemic.” He publicly chastised a popular burger franchise after being denied service for not wearing a mask, and he was barred from attending a city council meeting at the Huntington Beach library for the same reason. His antics led to vote of no-confidence from his fellow council members, which was eventually shelved when Ortiz apologized for his behavior.
The former UFC champion is also a fierce Trump loyalist and used his platform to amplify the former president, associate with far-right groups, and propagate dangerous conspiracy theories such as QAnon, all while campaigning with the Trumpian slogan of “Making Huntington Beach Safe Again.” Ortiz even attempted to sell QAnon shirts on his clothing website during his campaign. (Author Note: Read Right Wing Watch’s longform reporting on Ortiz here.) Despite his controversial track record and limited political experience, Ortiz was elected to city council with 14.3 percent of the vote, finishing first among 15 candidates.
While Ortiz’s antics may have encouraged far-right activity in Huntington Beach; Orange County already had a long history of extremism. The KKK thrived in Anaheim, California in the 1920s while Orange County was known as a recruitment hub for neo-Nazi groups in the 1980s and 1990s. The county remains a haven for extremism, with far-right and white supremacist groups growing in popularity during Donald Trump’s presidency.