“There’s a Day Coming When The Media Will Have to Pay”: Tensions Continue to Mount in Shasta County

Vaguely threatening statements towards the media were made as a part of a recent podcast produced by Red, White and Blueprint, an effort to document attempts to recall Shasta County Supervisor Leonard Moty. The statements came just after reports of credible threats of violence against several supervisors. A special election to consider Moty’s recall will take place February 1.

A leader of the local branch of a self-described “militia” compared journalists to Nazi war criminals on a podcast released by the producers of the Red, White and Blueprint on Thursday, January 13. 

Woody Clendenen made the statements, which also suggest the possibility of violence towards the media. The Patriot State of Mind podcast is produced by Red White and Blueprint, a YouTube docuseries that chronicles community attempts to recall Shasta County supervisors as a blueprint for how citizens nationwide can stand up to what the producers regard as government overreach.

During the 28th podcast episode, Clendenen and other hosts complained about critical media coverage by the LA Times last year, as well as ongoing coverage by A News Cafe opinion journalist, Doni Chamberlain, who has focused much of her recent writing over the last year on opposing the local recall effort. 

As the show was coming to a close, Clendenen told his co-hosts that he had one more thing to share. He spoke about the Nuremberg Trials, tribunals held by the Allies after World War II that ultimately prosecuted many of Nazi Germany’s political and military leaders for international war crimes.

Then, referencing what he said was an image of the trials, Clendenen said, “What a lot of folks don’t know is some of the folks hung that day were the media because they had helped cover up the crimes and the lie. And I think in our own country there’s a day coming that the media will have to pay, in one way or another.”

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“I’m not saying that we’re going to hang them,” Clendenen immediately clarified, “I’m saying that they will pay. Those media platforms will either be wiped off the face of the earth and people will demand true media, but in one way or another.”

The image referenced by Clendenen contains multiple inaccuracies according to Reuters which reported that the photo actually shows the executions of several German Nazi officials following war crimes trials in Ukraine. While political, government and military Nazi leaders were executed as a result of the actual Nuremberg trials, journalists were not. 

The podcast episode with Clendenen’s statements was released on the same day that news of credible threats against multiple Shasta County Supervisors was reported by local law enforcement. 

A statement issued by the Red, White and Blueprint team.

There is no indication of a connection between Clendenen or others in the leadership of the Red, White and Blueprint and those threats. On January 13, the organization issued a statement, signed by several of the organization’s leaders, denouncing violence against county supervisors. 

But one of those leaders, Carlos Zapata, who is a subject of the Red, White & Blueprint, has himself publicly threatened violence in the past. In 2020 Zapata made a speech to Shasta County supervisors which later went viral.

In that speech, he warned that it was not going to be peaceful in Shasta County much longer. “I’ve been in combat and I never want to go back again,” Zapata said, “but I’m telling you what, I will fight to save this country and if it has to be against our own citizens it will happen…”

Zapata was recently acquitted of a charge of battery in a highly visible case involving a local progressive activist who had angered Zapata by producing satire aimed at him and others in the recall movement. Zapata was found guilty of the lesser charge of disturbing the peace.

In September 2021, Clendenen said on the Patriot State of Mind podcast that he and others will not allow any agency to come to Shasta County and “bully” local businesses.

Zapata agreed. “All we want is to be left alone,” Zapata said, “and if you’re not going to be a protector, if you’re not going to hold that sacred cloak over us that says these people are untouchable by tyrants … then you are an enemy of freedom, an enemy of the constitution, and you are an enemy of this country. So don’t call me a terrorist … don’t call us violent insurrectionists. You’re in the wrong. This is where we draw the line . . . . We are equipped, we are prepared,” Zapata said, “I’m not scared of the FBI showing up at my house. I’m not scared of the cops. I’m not scared of anybody.”

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Tensions continue to mount in Shasta County as the county prepares for a special election. The results of that vote could lead to the recall and replacement of long-time Shasta County Supervisor and former Redding police chief Leonard Moty. 

The recall is motivated primarily by Moty’s choice to support state-wide COVID mandates and restrictions. Petitions by local organizers to recall two other Shasta County Supervisors for similar reasons failed for lack of signatures. Votes on the recall election, which can only be made by residents of Shasta County’s District 2, are due February 1.

The frustrations of recall proponents increased on January 4 when three county supervisors voted to make Moty chair of the board during the first meeting of the year. Moty used his new position to immediately institute changes to the board’s agenda process, limiting open public comment at the beginning of board meetings to forty-five minutes and moving the rest of open public comment to the end of the meeting, after the board’s agendized business has concluded. 

The move is a clear response to many months of prolonged and often angry public comment by recall proponents at county board meetings. Over the last year or more, the open public comment period has routinely lasted for hours and has frequently been used to repeatedly harangue and scold several of the current supervisors over their approach to the pandemic. At times over the last year, public comments have also degenerated into open threats of civil war or lethal force against public officials for their stances.

While Moty’s change of policy is unpopular with some, it appears to be consistent with California’s Brown Act, a law that outlines requirements for public inclusion in government meetings. It’s also similar to how Redding’s City Council does business. But the policy change immediately exacerbated recall proponents’ complaints that Moty fails engage with the public. While Moty has consistently denied those claims, his authoritative approach during the January 4 meeting did little to temper his opponents’ criticisms. During that meeting, Moty repeatedly argued with often-defiant public commenters and initially refused to follow suggestions by fellow supervisor Les Baugh to call multiple people to wait in line at the podium as a means of saving time to allow for more speakers during the forty-five minutes of preliminary open comment.

Baugh, who voted against Moty’s appointment to chair, attempted to interrupt Moty’s actions several times during the meeting, once or twice by asking for clarification by County Counsel as to what was legally allowed. He told Moty, “You’re going to do what you want to, but I’m just saying next meeting there will be two hundred people in here because of what you’ve done today.” 

The events of that meeting were immediately picked up by Red, White and Blueprint producers, who have been filming county board meetings as part of their process of documenting community opposition to COVID mandates. After the meeting, they pushed out a short video compilation clip of Moty’s interactions with the public during that meeting. The video now has almost 300,000 views.   

On Friday January 14, the county released a statement making the January 18 meeting of the Board of Supervisors virtual, due to the recent rapid spread of COVID-19 in the community. Despite that announcement, it’s unclear whether the Board chambers will remain closed on the 18th. In the past, supervisors Patrick Jones and Les Baugh have chosen to open the chambers to the public during virtual meetings. Jones has told local media he may do so again Tuesday. Speaking to the Record Searchlight last week, Jones said regardless of whether he opens the chambers, hundreds will show up on the 18th.

While the result of Shasta County’s special recall election will be decided by the voters of District 2, it will affect the entire county by determining what will likely be a swing vote in many of the board’s decisions.

The four candidates vying for Moty’s seat include Tim Garman, Tarik Mahmoud, business owner Tony Hayward, and Dale Ball. If over 50% of District 2 votes to recall Moty, the candidate with the highest number of votes on question 2 of the ballot will take his place. 

Marc Dadigan contributed to this story.

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