Since taking office in 2021, Oakland City Council member Carroll Fife has received threats by phone, social media and in person, an extreme level of harassment she never imagined would come with serving her community.
Fife said she has found animal parts strewn on her car, her tires flattened, and trash dumped at her doorstep. She tried in vain to get a restraining order against a man who said she would “feel the Second Amendment.” A menacing caller whose voice mail Fife shared online displayed the particular vitriol she receives as a Black woman: “Whitey’s going to hunt your ass.”
“What reality am I living in? Why? What am I doing?” Fife said by phone from California. Her most recent threat arrived Tuesday. “What have I done to create this level of anger in people? Or what is our society creating where people think it’s okay?”
Fife’s experience is mirrored across the country, where an increase in threats and harassment against local officials has led to calls for response plans and security protocols like those typically reserved for higher offices, according to a new study of targeted officials. The report, released Friday by the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University, is based on interviews with 30 mayors, city council members and other public officials across the political spectrum and from different regions, a snapshot of serving in a violent climate that’s expected to worsen in the run-up to the 2024 election. [Continue reading…]