A "staunch anti-mask Republican" on the Temecula City Council in California compared her refusal to wear masks to Rosa Parks protesting on the bus in 1955 during the civil rights movement.
Councilmember Jessica Alexander used her platform to speak out about masks and the persecution she faces.
The council was discussing how the city's office was going to continue to stay safe for the city workers and the public while COVID-19 is still a public health threat. Before Alexander launched into her speech, many city council member expressed how they would remain virtual until they knew it was safe to meet in person again.
Councilmember Zak Schwank said:
"It's the Temecula way. It is—this is who we are as leaders.
"This is our role in the city, to define what that Temecula way is and it isn't just throwing out, you know, guidelines and doing whatever we want."
"It is leading our community, and our entire community, so I think it's important that we sort of just acknowledge that."
In response, Jessica Alexander said:
"Look at Rosa Parks. She was accommodated to the back of the bus, but she finally took a stand and moved to the front because she knew that that wasn't lawful."
"It wasn't truth."
"So, she took a stand. At what point in time do we? I'm getting to the point where I'm getting accommodated in my office. I feel like I'm getting pushed to the back of the bus."
Rosa Parks was a Black woman and activist in the civil rights movement who refused to follow the Jim Crow laws of the time which gave preferential treatment to White people and segregated virtually every part of daily public life.
Eventually, her protest sparked similar protests leading to the Montgomery bus boycott. The loss of revenue forced some bus lines to change their discriminatory practices.
Since Alexander's speech (starting around 2:55:07) at the end of the Temecula City Council meeting on April 13, she has received intense criticism for her comparison.
You can see her comments here:
People weren't supportive of Alexander's comparison.
The Los Angeles Times reported on the responses.
Corey Jackson, co-director of the Moreno Valley-based Center Against Racism and Trauma, said:
"Her comments were very painful to the African American community, and as elected officials, if we make comments that cause trauma to another community we have to own it and we have to seek to remedy it."
"People need to be careful when they try to invoke the words and experience of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and all others."
Councilman Zak Schwank also pressed Alexander for an apology.
"Wearing a mask is not a civil rights issue, it's not a battle, it's not a civil rights battle. Equating the two is offensive."
"I think we can all agree, from the people we heard tonight and the emails we received, that the community is disappointed and hurt by your comments.... We need to be more mindful that we represent the entire city, not just a certain fraction of the city."
Currently, there's a petition to recall Jessica Alexander from the Temecula City Council.
Alexander has yet to make a public statement about her remarks.