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Local Pride nonprofit accuses Atascadero city officials of condoning hate speech

Gala Pride & Diversity Center in San Luis Obispo, California
Gala Pride & Diversity Center in San Luis Obispo, California

This story was updated on 6/14/24 at 11:40 a.m. to include a statement from the City of Atascadero.

A San Luis Obispo Pride nonprofit is accusing Atascadero City Council members and the city manager of condoning hate speech – through inaction – at a recent council meeting.

SLO’s Gala Pride & Diversity Center stated on Instagram that three people, including a teen, spoke at Tuesday’s Atascadero city council meeting, asking the city to recognize Pride month next year.

The Center’s Program Director, Serin Ruggles, said a 14-year-old spoke about her experience as part of the LGBTQ community. Then, during public comment, a speaker reportedly used homophobic hate speech.

“He ended his speech by saying, and I quote, ‘Homosexuals in the room: I apologize if I've offended you, but you're not even people. Buy a rope.’ He explicitly called for the murder or suicide of LGBTQ+ people,” Ruggles said.

Another speaker also allegedly used homophobic slurs.

The Pride Center is accusing city officials of failing to intervene.

The organization claims that the city edited out any mention of Pride in the online video of the council meeting.

Terrie Banish, a spokesperson with the City of Atascadero, told KCBX in an email that the comments, while not reflecting the city's values, are protected by free speech.

"We are a country of rights and laws, and while we were shocked and repulsed by the content of what a handful of speakers said, they have a right to speak," Banish said.

KCBX Reporter Amanda Wernik graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Journalism. Amanda is currently a fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism, completing a data fellowship that will result in a news feature series to air on KCBX in the winter of 2024.
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