Examining a dangerous rightwing element in Culver City.
What is Protect Culver City, who is behind them, and what exactly are they trying to protect? This article will take a close look at this extreme rightwing organization, its founder Ron Bassilian, and the role they are playing in Culver City.
The group initially congealed in opposition to rent control, which Bassilian calls “communist housing policy.” They are the prime movers behind the reactionary local Measure B on the November 2020 ballot, which would repeal existing renter protections and increase rents in the city; they are furious about recent court decisions restricting police roundups of homeless people (whom they call “criminal vagrants”); and they have united with the city’s police union in a fear and intimidation campaign, which includes exaggerating crime, defending a grossly inflated police budget, and personally attacking progressive elected officials and candidates. Let’s dive in.
Culver City has come a long way since its founding as a Sundown Town. At the time of its incorporation in 1917, people of color and sometimes people of non-Christian religious faiths were barred from owning property, or even visiting or passing through. After many years of racial exclusion and profiling, racist property covenants, and KKK terror — as well as police harassment and murder of the unwelcome — the city has evolved into a fairly diverse town with a very diverse school system. In recent years it has elected a progressive majority City Council which has defended and expanded protections for immigrants (it’s now an official Sanctuary City) and renters, worked to increase housing and affordable housing, expanded help for the homeless, and is considering ways to dramatically shift perhaps as much as 50% of the current inflated police budget to other city services and education.
Needless to say, this has caused a backlash among more conservative elements in the city who pine for the “good old days.” Local social media pages are often filled with acrimonious debates between those welcoming and encouraging change and those who long for a return to what they see as the idyllic white city of their youth (of course, the “white” part is rarely said out loud). This imagined city of the past is often referred to as “Mayberry” from the old Andy Griffith Show, which was, in fact, filmed in Culver City. Many of the debates center on the role of the local police department, which has played a notorious role over the years maintaining the white supremacist status quo. The alignments are typical, with people of color and progressives on one side and more conservative elements, mainly white, on the other.
Within this conservative “old guard,” an extreme right-wing leadership has emerged under the national influence of the Trump/Pence Republicans and their most fervent and fascist-leaning supporters. Even though it seems some residents on the more conservative end of the political spectrum would rather not be identified with this extremist leadership, no alternative leaders or groups have emerged to represent them, and none of the more moderate conservative forces have taken a strong stand against their initiatives and attacks. As a result, a fascist-leaning element has become the de facto representatives of the more conservative elements in Culver City. This group is led by Ron Bassilian, a rabid Trump supporter who tries to conceal his views in order to navigate the more liberal local waters. As he describes it, “I’m supporting [Trump] from behind enemy lines. I need to appeal to more liberal voters by sticking with issues people think are bipartisan.” (emphasis added)
These extreme right-wingers have created a political action committee called Protect Culver City, which is, to use their own ominous words, “dedicated to protecting our way of life.” Given that the city is still struggling to overcome its ugly racist history, this call to protect the city and its “way of life” has caused many to recognize it as a dog whistle for returning to a whites only town protected by a racist police force. On their webpage, they describe the city as “an oasis of neighborly calm in a turbulent city…thanks to our elite police department.” Again a dog whistle — an “oasis” protected from the hordes of a turbulent Los Angeles by the police. Their slogan could just as easily be Make Culver City Great Again.
Protect Culver City and Bassilian rail at the unhoused people in the city, whom they call “criminal vagrants,” and they condemn the political “climate were [sic] police are not allowed to ‘harass’ people or ‘criminalize homelessness.’” They advocate forming Neighborhood Watch groups specifically to help police with “probable cause” to go after unhoused residents. And they encourage people to call the police to complain of “suspicious activity,” arguing that if the caller is “tied to a reliable Neighborhood Watch” it gives the police “their golden ticket to investigate.” The racism of their position is barely below the surface as they rant about “Harry Culver’s Dream City Reduced to Skid Row By Local Politicians.” Harry Culver’s dream city was, of course, explicitly a whites-only city.
Rent Control and Measure B
While rent control is an important policy to reduce homelessness, Bassilian’s group is absolutely terrified of it. The group was initially launched in opposition to the City Council’s adoption of a temporary rent freeze. Calling the move “radical legislation” and “just one aspect of council’s agenda to radically transform our city” through rent control, “transient camps,” “reckless upzoning,” and “deprecating our police,” Protect Culver City organized to “stop all this.” It’s important to emphasize that rising rents disproportionally impact people of color, particularly Black people, due to years of structural racism, and opposing rent control is another sure method of perpetuating and intensifying racial discrimination.
Their largest anti-rent-control effort has been local Measure B, on the ballot in November. Placed on the ballot through a deceitful signature gathering campaign and funded largely by real estate interests, this measure would repeal Culver City’s local rent control and further raise the city’s already-exorbitant rents. In addition, Measure B specifically reopens loopholes that landlords in other cities use to evict tenants, “allowing landlords to evict tenants through no fault of their own and then raise rents on the next tenants as much as the landlord wants.”
Who is Ron Bassilian?
Protect Culver City President Ron Bassilian is quite a piece of work. He can be seen daily on Twitter vomiting extreme right-wing talking points. He supports Kyle Rittenhouse, the fascist vigilante who travelled across state lines to shoot three protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two of them. He claims it’s a lie that there were peaceful protestors in Kenosha. He opposes Covid-19 regulations requiring social distancing and masks, tweeting about “mask martial law” and retweeting others calling mask rules “commie” orders. He retweeted Trump’s outrageous and incoherent lie that there wouldn’t be as many cases of COVID-19 if “we didn’t test so much.” He proudly posted pictures of himself with French fascist Marion Le Pen at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) outside Washington, DC in 2018. CPAC is well known for its excesses, and has “featured speakers who raged against gays, Muslims and immigrants and, for years, it banned panel discussions about gay rights.”
Bassilian’s Congressional Campaign
Bassilian ran for California’s 37th Congressional district in 2018 against Democratic incumbent Karen Bass. During the campaign he spent much of his time spewing lies against Democrats on immigration, and reciting the lines of the most fascistic and xenophobic Trump supporters. He claimed, for example, that Democrats “have an agenda to push, and that agenda is eliminating borders and immigration law.” He described immigrants as looking like “invading army” and predicted they would swarm the US unless they are stopped, expressing a xenophobic terror that “a citizen will be indistinguishable from anyone hopping the fence.” In another more recent blog post, he claimed that “Democrats are not just for open borders, but for eliminating the entire concept of citizenship and duly elected governments.” His campaign ended in thorough humiliation, not even capturing 11% of the vote against the popular Representative Bass.
The Thin Blue Line
Bassilian holds the view that the police are a “thin blue line” between civilization and chaos. As described above, he sees the police as the only force protecting Culver City from the “hordes” of LA and he sees them as allies in his campaign against the unhoused. Along with the Culver City Police Officers Association, the local police union, Bassilian’s group organized a Defend Culver City Police rally on July 26 of this year.
Protect Culver City gave one of the keynote speeches at the rally and passed out black t-shirts with the “thin blue line” flag, a common symbol of opposition to police reform and civilian oversight. The CCPOA is a frightening and corrupt organization, as are police unions in general. Police unions are notorious for defending cops who murder people, especially Black people, and fighting against any form of legal accountability for abusive and lawbreaking officers. The former president of the CCPOA, Luis Martinez, was elected to the union board shortly after he had been judged culpable to the tune of $8.8 million for the shooting death of Lejoy Grissom, a Black man murdered by Martinez with his hands in the air.
The police union recently released a propaganda video attaching local progressive activists and defending Martinez that was so inflammatory and inaccurate that it was condemned by four out of the five of Culver City’s councilmembers and the city’s Democratic Club. In an even more threatening development, they have begun distributing flyers, billboards and social media ads showing local progressive candidates with large red X’s drawn on their faces.
Bassilian’s Idol: David Horowitz
When asked during Ballotpedia’s candidate survey on May 21, 2018 who he looked up to and whose example he would like to follow, Bassilian put David Horowitz at the top of his list. This is very revealing because Horowitz is described on the respected Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) website as a hard-right extremist and “a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black movements.”
The SPLC has a lengthy history and analysis of Horowitz and his views on their webpage, which is worth reading to better understand why Bassilian looks up to him. Here’s just one sample Horowitz quote: “Obama is an anti-American radical and I’m actually sure he’s a Muslim, he certainly isn’t a Christian. He’s a pretend Christian in the same way he’s a pretend American. It really is disgraceful. He’s inviting the terrorists to behead more Americans when he should be attacking them with our military. His whole agenda in office has been to defeat America, he lost the war in Iraq deliberately, he created a vacuum which ISIS has filled.” Horowitz, incidentally, is mentor to another Southern California fascist: Trump advisor Stephen Miller.
For one of his early introductions into Culver City politics, Bassilian played a provocateurish role during an April 2018 City Council meeting installing new councilmembers. He invited a rabid Trump supporter and anti-immigrant activist named Genevieve Peters. Peters had already built up quite a reputation for, as the Orange County Register observed, traveling “from town to town, screaming an agenda”. She held true to form in Culver City by thoroughly antagonizing most meeting attendees and making “racist and sexist attacks on Council members Meghan Sahli-Wells and Daniel Lee.”
According to the SPLC, Peters has links “to white nationalist hate groups.” SPLC has monitored Peters “traveling from city to city on a nightly basis and stoking racial tensions at city council meetings.” Peters has been heard yelling, “call ICE” at Latino speakers and claiming that LGBT activists have a “mental illness.” She also made national news last May by filming herself throwing a 20-minute tantrum and refusing to wear a mask in a Trader Joe’s store. She turned her camera on other shoppers and said, “Look at all of these sheep that are here, all wearing this mask that is actually dangerous for them.”
Bassilian later tried to distance himself from Peters by claiming she was just “a friend of a friend,” but while Peters may be unable to maintain a polite facade their political views are very similar.
A Smorgasbord of Bassilian Tweets (for even more, see the footnotes)
At this point the nature of Bassilian’s politics, and the politics of Protect Culver City as an organization, should be clear. But nothing can give you a better sense of the man than his own words.
That said, these tweets are violently racist, bigoted, and hateful. Skip this section if you do not wish to be exposed to hate speech.
As you read them, keep this in your mind: while our city may be led by progressives, there are still racists and fascists within our city — in local politics, in business, in the police department — seeking to put their ugly stamp on our political landscape. Some of these tweets have since been deleted from Bassilian’s account, and we have documented them as screenshots.
“I like blacks I just hate n*****s.”
“Does anyone say ‘fuck Latinos’? Maybe w******s, Mexicans, b*****s, s***s…”
“Pic of my c*ck in ur mouth bitch”
“If it wasn’t for illegitimate r*pe I’d never get laid”
“If that’s the case nobody should be Muslim. Whole religion is based on r*pe, murder, and conquest.”
“This Iman has a point. Muslims are unsentient beasts. There is no point telling them not to r*pe.”
Bassilian calls BLM protesters rioters and wants their supporters investigated: “Anyone calling the rioters over the past six weeks ‘protestors’ should be added to whatever investigations are happening. The American people have had enough of this organized insurrection.”
“because ur a f*****”
He opposed a July 2020 LA teachers strike and called for all teachers to be fired, “Air traffic controllers went on strike in 1981. Reagan just fired them all…. idk seems like a great precedent for resetting the clock on our schools.”
And in closing:
“Sometimes I wonder if my life would be more successful of (sic) I discussed my c*ck in public more.”
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KNOCK.LA is a project paid for by Ground Game LA. This article was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.