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Palo Alto officials blast poster expressing anti-gay sentiments

Messages found around Mitchell Park over the weekend

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A series of posters that lewdly criticize Palo Alto libraries for displaying literature about LGBTQQ issues as part of its Pride Month celebration circulated around Mitchell Park over the weekend and drew a sharp rebuke from city officials Monday afternoon.

The poster includes a photo of a man and three children, with the words "Father's Day" above the photo. Under the poster are the words: "Part of what a father does is to protect his children. Someone is trying to seduce your kids sexually. This is happening here, now." An arrow after "now" points the Palo Alto City Library logo.

The photo is juxtaposed with photos of book covers, including "Trans: A Memoir" by Juliet Jacques and "The Wedding Heard 'Round the World: America's First Gay Marriage" by Michael McConnell and Jack Baker. The books are part of the Palo Alto City Library's Pride Month displays.

According to Library Director Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne, the posters were found at three locations: the Magical Bridge Playground, in the bathroom by the Mitchell Park tennis courts and at the crosswalk of Middlefield Road and Mayview Avenue. Officials do not know who had put up the posters, she said.

Images of the poster found their way to social media and were circulated on NextDoor and Facebook on Sunday. Councilman Adrian Fine, who became aware of the poster over the weekend, called it "hate speech" and urged city staff to issue a formal statement rebuking it.

"This kind of message is totally unacceptable in Palo Alto," Fine told the Weekly. "All people, especially our LGBTQ friends and neighbors, are welcome here in Palo Alto. I'm especially disappointed this happened in one of our libraries."

On Monday afternoon, Mayor Liz Kniss released a statement denouncing the poster.

"While the speech is protected by the First Amendment, the homophobic sentiment is disturbing," Kniss said. "A public library should offer the best available information to all members of the community, and support and protect the public's right to explore all information for themselves."

These types of incidents are rare in Palo Alto, Kniss said.

"But, when they do occur, it's important to call them out and reaffirm our commitment to maintaining our city as a diverse, supportive, inclusive and protective community through our actions and words," Kniss said.

The poster also caught the attention of Steven Lee, a member of the Human Relations Commission who took to Facebook on Sunday to "condemn this act in the strongest possible terms." Lee, who said he is speaking for himself and not for the commission or the city, said in a Sunday post that he didn't want the day to end "without folks knowing that the views expressed in this misinformed and disgusting poster do not reflect the views or values of our community."

"To our LGBTQQ+ community, to our young people and to our fathers and parents of all types, please know that I will do whatever I can to protect, defend and advocate for you," Lee wrote. "You are safe, wanted, and welcome in Palo Alto and you are and will always be valuable members of our community."

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2018 at 4:45 pm

So why are you showing the posters? Isn't that giving them the advertising the maker of the posters wants. You could report on the incident without showing the posters. An old saying is that any publicity is good publicity, and that I think is what you are doing by displaying them.


12 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2018 at 5:20 pm

I agree with the other commenter. By posting a picture of the poster, you are helping the person who made the poster spread their message and potentially reach others who feel the same way about the LGBTQ+ community. Please reconsider the use of the image. A picture of the library or of the books mentioned in the poster would suffice.


36 people like this
Posted by jvpadojino
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 18, 2018 at 5:44 pm

jvpadojino is a registered user.

@Resident and @Palo Alto resident: Hi, my name is Jamey, digital editor at Palo Alto Online. After discussing the matter with our editorial team, we have removed the image of the poster in the article.


8 people like this
Posted by Comment
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2018 at 7:05 pm

Sorry to pile on, but the word "blast" can mean to spread the word aggressively or it can mean to criticize harshly. I'm sure you don't mean the former but I had to do a double take. Maybe the story should be retitled, too.


2 people like this
Posted by Forrester D
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 18, 2018 at 10:39 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 19, 2018 at 9:30 am

I think Jamey and the rest of Palo Alto Online need to take sensitivity training. I'm also asking for the resignation of the editor. This is absolutely a unforgivable oversight of journalism.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2018 at 10:03 am

Thank you to the Weekly for taking down the image of the poster. It is a good thing for the details to not be shared.

As for the fact that the Mayor and many others have posted the image all over social media, they are also passing on the publicity that the maker of the poster wanted.

Please talk about it, report it to authorities, say how wrong the poster maker was in what they did, but don't compound the insult by showing the image of the poster anywhere. Nobody needs to see the poster to know that what it says is wrong.


7 people like this
Posted by Bryan G.
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2018 at 10:37 am

Completely unforgivable for the Weekly, Kniss, and the Human Relations Commissioner to post the photograph online in order to disseminate this hate speech.

Our public officials need to be smarter than this, and understand they are doing a great disservice by spreading this hateful speech. The Mayor's and commissioner's posts felt more like political pandering than sincere activism.


6 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2018 at 11:07 am

Novelera is a registered user.

I personally was curious to see what the idiot posted. Apparently Generation Snowflake is hopping all over the Weekly for putting it up in the first place. Sheesh! Get over yourselves, people.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 19, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Jim is a registered user.

Another thought about the homophobic hater and our libraries. The mayer moved swiftly to inform us an and address the issues. That is much to her credit. But trumpeting our anti-bigot policy does not do much to change behavior. There is another way. Posterizing bigots fear being known. They count on anonymity. Why not take the next step?Mayor kniss, why not assert a determination to learn who wrote those posters. When a perpetrator has been identified simply publish his or


5 people like this
Posted by Calm Down
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2018 at 3:57 pm

[Portion removed.] Maybe some of your intolerance is why people stay anonymous? Maybe if you were willing to have a discussion with someone on their ideas and beliefs instead of blaming and pointing fingers progress would be faster?


3 people like this
Posted by Peers Parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 20, 2018 at 6:04 am

Peers Parent is a registered user.

@clam down - If the individual made themselves known, a conversation would be possible. Instead this person posted hate speech in several places, potentially for children to find. Blaming and pointing fingers comes because this is completely unacceptable and potentially puts some of our most vulnerable youth at risk. There are gay and trans people in this town. Many of them have expressed concern with homophobia and transphobia in the past. These posters warrant a swift condemnation.
I hope few people saw them before they were removed.


5 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 20, 2018 at 8:31 pm

It's a sign of mature society if people are willing to listen to the other side instead of labeling the other side as transphobic/homophobic and anything the other side says as hate-speech.

For a balanced view, please read: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 20, 2018 at 9:29 pm

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:02 pm

@Concerned Parent One can only have a mature conversation with someone who is willing to have a mature conversation. Posting anonymous posters with false accusations does not bode well for the possibility of having a mature conversation.


9 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 21, 2018 at 6:45 am

@H: One needs to ask why a person was forced to put up anonymous posters. Would the LGBTQ activists respectfully listen to that person? Or would they subject that person to all sorts of intimidation via social media and what not?

It's becoming increasingly clear that
LGBTQ activists are focused on what's best for their movement and are willing to have impressionable young minds become casualties in the process.


2 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 21, 2018 at 8:31 am

Why are women who discuss gender getting bomb threats?

Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Diversity
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 21, 2018 at 10:23 am

Diversity is a registered user.

Palo Alto is a diverse city. People have different backgrounds, cultures, and values. As we go through our lives here, cultures and values will evolve, for some quickly, for some more slowly. That is okay. It is not human nature to adapt quickly to many changes, so be kind, be patient, be understanding. It is in the best interests of the LBGTQ movement to approach it this way. Harsh reactions will just push people inwards, make it more difficult for them to learn or hear, and increase hostility.

People will always disagree on things. But with kindness and tolerance, listening, and patient education, we can all get along, and benefit from the diversity of our approaches and thinking.

One of my kids said a student in his middle school was telling friends he was uncomfortable around gay people. How brave to be able to say that. But instead of taking the next step to engage in productive discussion, he was faced with considerable hostility for his "intolerance". Let's show that we can do better.


3 people like this
Posted by Much ado
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2018 at 2:38 pm

This is probably the work of one angry kid and making a big deal out of it serves politicians who want to posture and be in the news.
Just take the posters down and reduce the posturing and long vacuous, trite, self-serving statements, like the Mayor's.

Reminds me of the big deal made out of renaming schools. Much ado about nothing of importance. Bored people looking for an outlet. Or a picture in the paper.

There are real problems in the city, try to focus on them.


1 person likes this
Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2018 at 8:47 pm

@Concerned Parent "Casualties"? Do you mean LGBTQ children who grow up depressed and commit suicide at a higher rate than non-LGBTQ youth due to feeling marginalized and isolated? Young minds are impressionable, yes. But encouraging acceptance of diversity is and always will be important and necessary. May I suggest something? Please educate yourself more about what it means to be LGBTQ. Go meet and actually talk to someone who is LGBTQ, who is not an activist. You cannot catch it like the flu. Your child/ren will not turn LGBTQ because they learn that LGBTQ people exist. Again, if you really want to have a mature conversation, where both sides come with an open mind to discuss and learn, I suggest another medium. Not online. Not anonymous posters. Without false accusations.

@Much ado There is nothing vacuous or trite about showing support for a group of people who still live in fear simply for being themselves.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Many year ago, when my brother first told me he was gay, I told him that I was uncomfortable with that. Fortunately, this was the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. Mine was an honest statement and he took it as such, not a sign of hatred or contempt. As time wore on, my attitude changed and I came to understand that the stereotypes I grew up with were neither true nor fair. While I do not condone posters like the ones discussed in this article, I think we need to be honest enough to recognize that we all harbor prejudices: some subtle, some not. There are a lot of people in the US who have reservations about the LGBTQ community. However, I believe that most, like mine were, are more a matter of ignorance than hatred. Episodes like this create the opportunity for discussion and learning, but only if we can resist the temptation of proving ourselves more liberal than thou.


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