Several dozen Santa Clarita Valley residents protested Friday afternoon in Valencia, calling for Councilman Bob Kellar to resign over comments he made at a rally opposing illegal immigration in 2010, and for the city of Santa Clarita to publicly denounce racism.
The demonstration ramped up just after 2 p.m. on the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard, where attendees, mainly local students, held signs that read, “No Justice, No Peace,” and chanted “Your silence is compliance.”
Among those in attendance was Sofia Ongelie, a 19-year-old Saugus resident, who met with local Black Lives Matter activists on Wednesday for a table discussion with Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Miranda about the city’s recently adopted budget and denouncing racism.
“The community is mobilizing, but all of the people that are in the City Council have shown support for (Kellar) — in spite of his comment and him continuing to say, ‘I’m not racist.’ I really hope that there’s a dialogue that continues to happen,” she said.
The issue dates back to a 2010 rally opposing illegal immigration, where Kellar gave a speech in which he recalled quoting Teddy Roosevelt at a council meeting, advocating for “one flag, one language.”
He said: “You know, the only thing I heard back from a couple of people? ‘Bob, you sound like a racist.’ I said, ‘That’s good. If that’s what you think I am, because I happen to believe in America, I’m a proud racist. You’re darn right I am.’”
The 10-year-old comments resurfaced on social media in the midst of the local protests in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. At a June 9 City Council meeting, several residents called for Kellar to resign, and those calls were repeated during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s council meeting. In his response during the June 9 meeting, Kellar said his 2010 comment was taken out of context and added, “I am not a racist. Never have been and never will be in my life. I have worked hard to help all Americans.”
He stood behind that statement on Friday. In a phone interview, Kellar said he would not resign.
“I’m not going to resign. I’m saddened that there has been such a response of something that I said 10 years ago and I’m saddened for my friends and my wife, but there are things going on in this country today that should not be going on so I am saddened on so many fronts,” he said, adding that he would “do my very best for the remaining months and will go quietly.”
Kellar had previously announced he would not run for re-election in November after 20 years on the council.
The protest of more than 80 attendees ended outside the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, where the focus shifted after three participants announced they are running to fill the two City Council seats in November currently held by Kellar and Mayor Cameron Smyth.