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Kern County activist faces 18 felony counts over alleged threats

A Kern County activist faces years in prison after authorities charged her with 18 counts for allegedly making terrorist threats against the Bakersfield City Council, the latest civic body to be rocked by unrest in amid calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Riddhi Patel, 28, who grew up in Bakersfield and works as an economic development coordinator for a local nonprofit, was arrested after public statements she made this week about a ceasefire. fire and metal detectors at city hall.

Among his comments, Patel said council members were “such horrible human beings” that “Jesus probably would have killed you himself.” She later expressed hope that oppressed peoples could “bring the guillotine.” She concluded her public statements by saying: “We will see you at home. We will assassinate you.

In response, Mayor Karen Goh first calmly called for the next speaker to come to the lectern, then paused and said: “Ms. Patel, that was a threat, what you said at the end . So the officers will escort you and take care of that.

On Friday, Patel appeared in court and tearfully pleaded not guilty. Neither she nor her representatives could be reached for comment.

The video from the Bakersfield City Council chamber quickly went viral, shared on X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok and picked up by Fox News And newspapers In India.

The mayor declined to comment, tell a local TV station that “since the incident is under investigation, it is not appropriate for me to comment.”

Vice Mayor Andrae Gonzales told KGET, however, that the exchange was “deeply concerning” and “totally inappropriate.” “The city can’t operate at a public council meeting if we’re continually disrupted,” he said.

Patel’s comments come as activists press the city council both for a resolution calling for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza and for increased security measures and rules regarding public speaking during board meetings.

Israel launched its offensive against Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for an October 7 cross-border attack that authorities say killed around 1,200 people. The war has lasted almost six months and has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, the majority of them women and children.

Patel, wearing a colorful dress and speaking calmly, addressed both issues during the meeting’s public comment period.

In calling for a ceasefire, she said she expected council members would not support it because they were “horrible human beings and Jesus probably would have killed you himself- even “.

She added that council members don’t care about oppression in Gaza because “you don’t care about the oppression that happens here,” and went on to list a number of problems in Kern County , including poor salaries and waves of evictions.

She referenced an Indian holiday, Chaitra Navratri, and said some in “the south” believe in “a violent revolution against their oppressors.” I hope one day someone brings the guillotine and kills you all, mother….

After these comments, Mayor Goh said: “Thank you.” Then she called the next speaker.

The United Liberation Front, the local group calling for a ceasefire, publicly condemned Patel’s comments later that night. “This does not represent those of us in the community who continue to show up and exercise our civic duty.”

Fifteen minutes later, Patel rose again from his seat in the audience to address the council on a second issue involving metal detectors and increased security at City Hall, which she and others say could stifle public participation. The issue has been hot in Bakersfield for years; in 2021 groups including the ACLU of Southern California protested the council’s “rules of public decorum” that were instituted during Black Lives Matter protests to impose certain limits on public speakers. The groups called the rules “overbroad” and said they could violate the 1st Amendment.

Patel, whose public biography said she has a degree in neuroscience and enjoys “holding elected officials accountable” as well as watching movies, playing sports and spending time outdoors with family and friends, the council accused of trying to criminalize members of the public who protest their policies.

“You want to criminalize… with metal detectors,” she said. “We’ll see you at home.” We will assassinate you.

No one on the board appeared to react, and Patel returned to her seat before police removed her.

The Kern County Prosecutor could not be reached for comment but in a statement to Bakersfield.Com said Patel’s charges include 10 counts of threatening with intent to terrorize a public official: five city council members, the mayor, city clerk, deputy clerk, city attorney and city manager.

She also faces eight counts of threatening specific public officials. This includes all but two meeting participants. The prosecutor told Bakersfield.Com that council members Bob Smith and Eric Arias “are not considered victims because they do not feel threatened.”

California Daily Newspapers

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