L.A. COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL CLINIC PROJECT CANCELED AFTER FAR-RIGHT DISINFO & INTIMIDATION CAMPAIGN
August 23, 2022 by VISHAL P. SINGH
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The lead-up to the July 18th school board meeting for Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District was anything but normal. LEXIT, a far-right group nominally advocating for Latino American Democrats to switch to the Republican Party, helped initiate an online firestorm over a proposed partnership with Planned Parenthood for a student clinic.
Agenda item number 12A proposed working alongside Planned Parenthood Los Angeles to start a school-based reproductive health clinic at John Glenn High School. According to the agreement between the school district and Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, abortions would not have been performed at this clinic. Instead, it would provide testing, treatment and medication for sexually transmitted illnesses, contraceptives, and referral services.
Anthony “Arod” Rodriguez, board member of LEXIT and friend of Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, made a video on social media the day before the meeting— calling the health clinic plan “diabolical” and “the devil’s work.” In the video, he speaks in front of a screenshot of the agenda item webpage from the school district’s website while omitting the fact that abortions aren’t provided by the proposed clinic. LEXIT, who have a history of promoting the Proud Boys, told their supporters to rally against the agenda item at the school board meeting and to offer public comment. The Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District responded by postponing the agenda item regarding the clinic. But the far-right refused to back down. More posts sprouted up on social media calling for a rally against the clinic proposal. LEXIT distributed flyers online for the rally.
“This goes out to the school district, to Norwalk-La Mirada, we are aware of your actions and what you are doing, and we will fight to protect our children. Let this be a warning to you,” said Kenneth W. Prado, self-proclaimed President of the LEXIT Inland Empire chapter. On the official LEXIT Instagram profile, which currently has over 116,000 followers, Prado falsely declared that the clinic plan was “trying to put murder now on school campuses.”
Disinformation spread rapidly online, with many conservative activists falsely convinced by the far-right that abortions would now be performed on a high school campus.
By 6:30 P.M., on the day of the school board meeting, a coalition of Christian nationalists, traditional conservatives, and a handful of confirmed Proud Boys surrounded the school board district building. Many of the more moderate conservative activists attended with children. LEXIT, who organized the rally, had a strong showing in the crowd. Signs sporting their logos displayed anti-abortion rhetoric as the crowd of over one hundred people furiously chanted their slogans and gave speeches, all motivated by the lie that abortions were to performed on a high school campus. When we asked Isaiah Moore, one of the demonstrators, if he knew that abortions wouldn’t be performed at the proposed clinic, Moore responded, “Planned Parenthood does abortions.” When asked if he had read the services provided listed in the initial agreement, Moore remained silent for a moment, then changed the topic.
A small group of local parents and young children stood across the street in an unofficial counter protest, enduring waves of obscene insults from far-right demonstrators, such as “close your legs, close your legs!” The locals opposing the far-right proudly chanted back “my body, my choice!” At one point, a local father walked across the street and confronted far-right activists for insulting his daughter.
While on the scene, our reporter was subjected to homophobic slurs and racist comments that targeted them for being Indian. Proud Boy Adam Kiefer, who admitted under oath to being a January 6th Capitol insurrectionist, lightly shoved our reporter with his shoulder while dodging our questions. We later learned that a Proud Boys sticker was placed on our reporter’s back (without their consent, obviously). Kiefer was there with Proud Boy Louie Mario Flores Jr. and Proud Boy Jose Paez (Paez wore a bracelet honoring slain January 6th Capitol insurrectionist Ashli Babbit). Also present was Chris Reyes and his “Babies Lives Matter” crew, another Proud Boys-affiliated coalition of extremists who have been targeting Planned Parenthood clinics across Southern California. They often show up to these Planned Parenthood clinics armed with melee weapons such as brass knuckles or knives.
In the wake of this far-right rally, the school district avoided giving public comment as Fox News spread additional misinformation about the school-based clinic. A Fox & Friends guest named Ryan Heath, who said he traveled all the way from Arizona to attend the rally, injected transphobia into the controversy—making sensational claims about adults pressuring students into transitioning or forcing “chemical castration.” The Fox & Friends guest went on to condemn what he baselessly labeled as “transgender conversion camps.”
Just over one month after the fallout, the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District announced that they would no longer be moving forward with the proposed plan for a school-based reproductive health clinic at John Glenn High School. Far-right groups like LEXIT took to social media to celebrate the victory.
The Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District declined our requests to comment both before and after the rally occurred. In a statement, they said, “the District appreciates the community feedback and will continue to provide services and resources to best serve our students, families, and community. The Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District will have no further comment on this matter.”
The Mayor of Norwalk, Rick Ramirez, shared the district’s statement on Instagram and told those who demonstrated, “thank you for getting involved in the process and letting your voices be heard.” LCRW reached out to Mayor Ramirez and asked how he felt about the handful of Proud Boys and other extremists who participated in the July 18th rally against the school board. He told us, “the community has spoken and I applaud the community for engaging and getting involved in the process. I applaud the governing body in tackling tough issues. Outside of that, I don’t have an opinion of anyone else’s involvement in the process.” When pressed again about involvement from out-of-town extremists like the Proud Boys, Mayor Ramirez reiterated, “I don’t have any further comment on any organizations or groups involved in the process.”
VISHAL P. SINGH
Vishal P. Singh (They/He) tracks police brutality and right wing extremism in Southern California. They often report live in the L.A. area and beyond. You can tip them for their work at @vishalsinghfilms on Venmo.
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