The Huntington Beach City Council voted on a litany of controversial proposals Tuesday during a marathon meeting that dragged on until the early hours of the morning. Over 100 speakers were in attendance, with most of them opposed to the items put forth by the council’s conservative majority.
Among the approved items was an overhaul of the city’s Declaration of Policy on Human Dignity, first passed in 1996. The new policy reads in part:
“The City of Huntington Beach will recognize from birth the genetic differences between male and female and respect the strengths and benefits of each. Each sex carries advantages and disadvantages that warrant separation during certain activities (ie. sports) [sic]. We encourage an environment free of hostility and discourage the erasure of either genders [sic] separate accomplishments.”
The policy was crafted by an ad hoc committee consisting of three council members. It passed 4-3 with Natalie Moser, Dan Kalmick and Rhonda Bolton voting "no."
One of the council members who helped craft the new Human Dignity Policy was Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, who has a history of antisemitic statements and associations. On a former YouTube channel of hers, Van Der Mark amplified a video by a holocaust denier that referred to the atrocity as a “hoax.” She has also been photographed at events with several Proud Boys members and alt-right personalities, including Johnny Benitez, Kyle Chapman (a.k.a Based Stick Man), and Augustus Sol Invictus.
Councilmember Natalie Moser confronted Van Der Mark about her past actions and associations during an Aug. 1 meeting. Given Van Der Mark’s involvement with a document on the protection of marginalized communities, Moser wanted to know if she was a denier of the holocaust (Van Der Mark said she was not.)
Those questions prompted a censure resolution against Moser Wednesday night, which passed along ideological lines. Moser, Kalmick and Bolton left the room in protest during the vote. As the conservatives' ayes were cast, someone from the audience yelled “shame on you!” and “censure Van Der Mark!”
In a statement after the vote, Moser accused the council’s majority of trying “to dismantle our city and foment chaos and division.”
“They continue to work to make us smaller, weaker and more divided,” Moser added. “They create nothing. They build nothing. They put extremist party level politics over what is actually good for our town.”
Just before the meeting wrapped up at 2:48 a.m., the council also voted to ban COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates in the city via a 4-3 vote. Critics had called the item a waste of time, as there are no current COVID vaccine or mask mandates in place or under consideration.
At one point during the discussion, a member of the audience began screaming at Van Der Mark about the seriousness of the pandemic and the lives it took from Huntington Beach residents. Mayor Strickland, who repeatedly called for decorum throughout the night, ordered the person escorted out of the room.
Wednesday’s packed meeting included discussions about proposed ballot measures requiring voter ID and the monitoring of drop-off ballot boxes, as well as expanding the powers of the city attorney and reducing the educational requirements for the city clerk. Residents referred to the litany of items as "overwhelming" and a blatant attempt at a "power grab." Cypress City Councilmember Frances Marquez also addressed the council, expressing sadness at the division and "vitriol" consuming Huntington Beach.
Watch the drama as it unfolded here.