Mike Judge is a lot: The Los Angeles Police Officer, a non-apologetic Conservative Republican and councilor of Simi Valley, a largely Conservative town 40 miles outside of town best known for being the cops who beat Rodney King , have been tried for decades.
He’s also a lightning rod for controversy.
Over the past week, Judge has enraged many Simi Valley residents and others when he joked about an offensive meme on Facebook about the ongoing protests against Black Lives Matter. And he further fueled the anger by arguing against a protest march planned for Simi Valley because he feared it would turn violent. Thousands of people signed petitions asking the judge to step down from his seat on the city council, which he has held since 2010.
The march went uneventfully on Saturday as about 2,000 protesters marched to the city’s civic center, where young organizers spoke and participants kneeled in silence to remember George Floyd, the black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last month was.
Mike Judge, Simi Valley councilor.
(City of the Simi Valley)
“We didn’t have any problems at all. It was peaceful, ”said Simi Valley Cmdr. Steve Shorts, who said no arrests were made at the event.
In a subsequent interview, a contrite judge reiterated a previous apology he’d made for the meme, which he described as a badly misguided attempt at humor, and offered a mea culpa for his demeanor on the march.
“I was wrong,” he said of misguided concerns about possible violence by demonstrators. “I couldn’t be happier that I was wrong.”
The 56-year-old judge started last week by posting on his personal Facebook page with the words “Do you want to stop the riots? Mobilize the septic tank trucks, put a pressure cannon on them … hose them down … the end. “
He labeled the post with his own comment and wrote, “This is brilliant, it will enforce the mask rule too!” – A reference to orders from the district’s health authorities that people wear masks in public to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
The white judge made matters worse a few days later when he posted an email exchange with Mikiiya Foster, an 18-year-old black woman who lives in Simi Valley, on the Facebook page he has for city council affairs lives and organizes Saturday March.
In response to an email from Foster inviting him to join the protesters, the judge said he would not attend and she should break off the march. She falsely claimed that the protests in the United States after Floyd’s murder were largely marred by violence.
“It is very difficult for me to find an example of a really peaceful protest,” he wrote. “Almost all protests to date have turned to violence and destruction.”
The judge said he respected Americans’ right to protest and shared the “shock and disgust” at Floyd’s death, but appeared to warn the young woman that protesters could be injured if they continued marching in Simi Valley.
“I just think that in this current climate you might not like the result,” he wrote. “I pray I’m wrong.”
In an interview the Saturday after the march, Foster said she didn’t want the controversy over Judge’s comments to overshadow the event. “Today was so much more than him,” she said.
It all sparked a firestorm when people took to social media to pillory the judge. They saw him as an advocate of the use of water cannons by protesters, a ruthless tactical police force that crushed civil rights protests in the 1960s, and an attempt to quell a legitimate expression of anger over police abuse of blacks that followed Floyd’s outbreak Killing broke out.
More than 8,000 people have given their names to two online petitions calling for his resignation from the city council. They left comments calling him a racist, “an embarrassment”, “sewage” and “a threat to Simi Valley”.
The organizers of the petitions also revisited an earlier episode in 2013 when Judge was again embroiled in controversy. That year, he came under fire for posting links to racy and suggestive websites on his Facebook page and linking to a graphic video of a woman beheaded with a penknife.
The judge was not repentant at the time and said he did not consider anything on his Facebook page to be inappropriate. He showed the gruesome video in the hope of being able to find the killer.
This time Richter showed more regret.
An apology he posted on Facebook on Thursday did little to calm the turmoil. In it, he said he had released the meme about hosing down protesters to make a humorous criticism of masks and other security measures to fight the coronavirus, which he believes are too extreme. The clear indication that the police are using violence against civil rights activists has been lost, he said.
Realizing he was wrong, he wrote, after speaking to a black friend. He deleted the Facebook post.
On Saturday Richter apologized again.
“I am not a racist. I know I can say this all day and it just sounds made up, but I was just trying to be silly and it went sideways, ”he said.
And with the peaceful march in the Simi Valley on Saturday, he admitted that he was wrong to suggest protesters stay away. He feared a march in the Simi Valley would become violent because of the “target” the city had targeted since the acquittal of four white officers who defeated King in 1992. The city, he said, doesn’t deserve the reputation of racism that has lasted since the trial.
This deep-seated reputation was the backdrop for the March Saturday. On Twitter and elsewhere, people shared their surprise when they saw Simi Valley hosting an event, and the city police chief encouraged them.
“It was shocking. I can’t imagine this happening as an adult, ”said Jacinda Dougherty, 26, who grew up in the Simi Valley and joined the march while visiting family at home for the summer. “It’s amazing to come back now and see thousands of people saying black lives matter. It is hopeful. ‘”
Foster said growing up in Simi Valley was an isolated experience where she was the only black girl in her classes at school and often ran into jokes and insults about her race.
The judge, she said, “had a chance to do something about that reputation and it didn’t take it. I think that says more about his character than anything else. “
Apart from his apology, the judge said he would not comply with requests to resign from the council.
“In 2022, Simi Valley citizens can tell me to go if they want,” he said.
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