A small but vocal group of activists organized by Presente.org and the Courage Campaign may have taken a wrong turn Tuesday afternoon, February 4, while attempting to deliver a pair of petitions.
In a two-week period, the group gathered over 14,000 signatures from people who felt a Lincoln Club–sponsored campaign mailer presented an unfair characterization of Democratic mayoral candidate David Alvarez. (The Lincoln Club of San Diego County has sent out a flurry of mailers this campaign season, attacking Alvarez.)
The particular ad that the Presente group protested against on Tuesday features a frowning Alvarez photoshopped to appear as though he’s waving stacks of hundred-dollar bills; protesters say the doctored image makes him resemble a gang member, which they charge is a form of "dog whistle racism."
"We want to protest this use of racist rhetoric," said Presente activist Refugio Mata. "It really sends the wrong message to Latinos, and conveys that no matter how civic-minded you may be, however much you've done to gain respect as a community leader, in the eyes of those like the Lincoln Club we're always going to be seen as gang members."
Laura Leavitt, representing Courage Campaign, accused the Lincoln Club of "perpetuating insulting, inaccurate notions that all Latinos are gang members."
"This is cowardly, unethical messaging referred to as 'dog whistle racism,' linking coded images and themes of common racial stereotypes and fear of minorities, and it has no place in our politics," said Leavitt.
After a brief press conference outside a San Carlos office park, the dozen activists proceeded to a second-story office and began chanting, where they were met by an enraged accountant who insisted the proper target was the office next door. Neither unit displayed any signage indicating a Lincoln Club affiliation; the group's website lists only a La Jolla post office box for a physical location.
After a few minutes of continued calls for an apology or explanation after relocating to the neighboring unit, the group delivered a bound copy of the petition through a mail slot and dispersed.
"That poor woman, she just handles the bookkeeping," explained Lincoln Club publicist Tony Manolatos, who observed the chaos from afar and afterward provided a written rebuttal from the targeted group. Manolatos confirmed that the Lincoln Club had no offices at the site and that the office targeted had showed up on ads because the proprietor was acting as a financial custodian.
"This so-called 'protest' was orchestrated by a Los Angeles group and promoted by a Washington DC public relations firm," reads Manolatos’s official Lincoln Club statement. "It's a protest firm for hire. These folks will be somewhere else tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and next week, pushing different propaganda at each stop."