Maywood city clerk under fire for anti-Muslim comments

By Ashley Orona 

Contributing Writer

MAYWOOD — Residents and representatives of a civil liberties organization are called for the resignation of City Clerk Gerardo Mayagoitia after an offensive post from his personal Facebook page against the Muslim community was circulated on social media.

Mayagoitia shared an image on July 21 of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack of New York City’s World Trade Center, according to a press release from the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The press release quoted his post as saying, “I haven’t forgotten 9-11 have you?? Congresswoman Ilhan Abdullahi Omar has no problem with what happened on 911 as a matter of fact she belongs to CAIR an organization that supports terrorist who were involved on the attack of the World Trade Center [sic].”

Mayagoitia’s post has since been removed.

The post is similar to other statements Mayagoitia has allegedly made throughout the years linking unrelated members and organizations from the Muslim community to the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2018, the Muslim community was the second-most targeted religious group for hate crimes, according to 2018 FBI crime statistics.  

Dozens of community members expressed their disappointment with the city clerk’s comments and the city of Maywood’s lack of action on the city’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Many called for Mayagoitia to be fired or to resign.

CAIR-LA also called for Mayagoitia to apologize and resign. The organization also asked the Maywood City Council to censure him, which would require the governing body to go on record and publicly denounce the city clerk’s remarks, according to Eugene Fields, communications manager for the organization.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, who represents Maywood in Sacramento; and Bell Mayor Ali Saleh also condemned Mayagoitia’s  statements and expressed solidarity with CAIR-LA. The city of Bell borders Maywood and is home to a large Lebanese-American population, many of whom are also practicing Muslims, including Saleh himself. 

Saleh’s shared in his July 22 Facebook post that Mayagoitia had also made remarks against him and his Muslim background.

“Mr. Mayagoitia’s post was anything but positive. It was hateful and dangerous, considering his elected city position,” Saleh wrote. “His insinuations of me also condoning terrorism because of my Muslim-American background have been insulting, based on a hateful and distorted view of this individual.”

The outcry prompted the city to publish a press release on July 23 that said, “The city of Maywood stands alongside our Muslim neighbors and does not condone the offensive and hurtful comments made on social media by the elected city clerk.”

The city also called for “mutual respect of one another, and of each other’s cultures and each other’s faith,” before concluding, “Vitriolic and divisive speech has no place in Maywood.”

CAIR-LA expressed appreciation for the city’s statement, but said it wasn’t enough.

“[Mayagoitia] is spreading lies not only about Muslims, but our organization,” Fields said. “People who use hate speech, especially in positions of power, lead to more hate crimes.” 

Maywood Mayor Eduardo De La Riva said that beyond the statement the city issued, the City Council has no authority to punish Mayagoitia because he is an elected official who can only be removed by recall or resignation. 

“He’s entitled to his own opinions and beliefs,” De La Riva said. “However, it’s important to distinguish that his statements are not reflective of the city’s beliefs.”.

Many members of the public disagreed.

“We want actions not words. City clerks interact the most with the community and someone with those opinions should not be in office,” said Jesus Maciel in a comment on the city of Maywood’s Instagram page.

Mayagoitia, whose term as city clerk ends in November, announced on Facebook that he would not seek reelection. He did not respond to requests for comment.