I think we need to unpack the recent goings on at the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission. Down here, the Redwood Times reported on a contentious meeting, where violence in Southern Humboldt was on the agenda, and at which, Nezzie Wade walked out and resigned. This front-page story gave us none of the details of the discussion. They told us nothing about the violence. They didn’t even tell us what Nezzie Wade got upset about. She just got upset and walked out. Weird, huh?
Next thing you know, the Supes have signed a letter, thanking Nezzie for her service, and wishing her well. Boom, gone, end of story. They made Nezzie sound like this Woodhouse character in Mendocino, like all of a sudden, one day, she just flipped her lid, and was no longer capable of doing her job. How convenient. Multiple complaints of vigilante violence in Southern Humboldt result in the resignation of one HRC commissioner.
Aren’t you glad that’s all tied-up with a nice little bow. Except, the Human Rights Commission didn’t assault people in Southern Humboldt. The HRC didn’t steal, and destroy people’s property, and Nezzie Wade didn’t organize a local posse down here in SoHum to forcibly evict homeless people around Garberville and Redway. That whole segment of the equation: the part about the multiple complaints of vigilante violence that resulted from a string of forcible evictions undertaken by an informal civilian group with no training or authority, known as “Locals on Patrol,” that part of the equation, somehow got overlooked.
I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that when an informal group of civilians with no special training or authority, undertakes to forcibly evict people from their homes, however primitive, human rights abuses could easily result. Landlords can’t get away with that shit. I don’t know how Locals on Patrol gets away with doing it on land owned by third party absentee landowners who didn’t ask them to do it. It seems reasonable to me that people’s rights may have been violated in these raids, and indeed, numerous complaints of human rights violations were made, in writing, and submitted to the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission. That’s bad enough, but now we get to the part that pissed Nezzie Wade off so much that she walked out of the meeting.
I talked to Nezzie about what happened, and she told me that she was in the middle of composing her letter of resignation, in which she offered an explanation of why she walked out of that meeting, when the supes short-circuited her with their premature letter of appreciation. Nezzie told me that this whole situation with the Human Rights Commission still weighs heavily upon her. She is very unhappy about how the HRC, and Commissioner Jim Glover specifically, handled these complaints of human rights abuses. People down here in SoHum are pissed about it too. Here’s what happened.
“Locals on Patrol” forcibly evicted people from camps in Southern Humboldt in September of 2016. Those evicted people filed complaints with the Human Rights Commission, through well-meaning people in Southern Humboldt. Somehow, these complaints, emailed to the HRC, never made it to most of the HRC Commissioners. However, HRC Commissioner Jim Glover discussed these complaints, at length, apparently, with 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, and shared them with at least one member of the press, who courteously reported back to those well-meaning SoHum folks, that Commissioner Glover had exposed and shared confidential information entrusted to the HRC, for their investigation.
This is a big deal down here in SoHum, and it was a very bad thing for Commissioner Glover to do. The man leading the Locals on Patrol group in these eviction raids, and the man named in most of the complaints as the most aggressive perpetrator, is Josh Sweet, a Garbervile businessman, who once worked for Estelle Fennell’s campaign, until the cops raided his hash lab, and found all of the illegal immigrant working on his land. These days, he’s busy gentrifying downtown Garberville, and waging war against the poor and homeless, both on his own, and in conjunction with “Locals on Patrol.”
When Commissioner Glover told Estelle Fennell about these complaints, he might as well have told Josh Sweet himself. Josh Sweet is a man of considerable political influence in SoHum, and was largely responsible for the recent Garberville Town Square closure. By the descriptions in the complaints, it’s clear that he doesn’t mind getting rough with people, himself, personally. All of the people who filed complaints against him, and all of the people who helped them file those complaints, still live here, along with Josh Sweet, and all of the Locals on Patrol people who participated in those raids.
We’re all still here together out in the middle of nowhere, in this tiny, little burg with a population of about 1,000, and not a single stop light. Josh Sweet should not have been informed of the complaints against him before the HRC had a chance to review those complaints, and decide on a course of action, and the commissioners should have respected the complainants privacy. That breach of confidence undercuts the purpose of the HRC. How can people feel safe in reporting human rights violations to the HRC, if the HRC has a record of turning those complaints over to the alleged perpetrators?
Yet, the other HRC commissioners never saw these complaints. That’s why Nezzie Wade got so pissed off. She demanded a copy of all correspondences the HRC has received, including emails, from the Secretary, and the Secretary informed Nezzie that she didn’t have them. Nezzie was flabbergasted. Why didn’t the Secretary have the correspondences? Why couldn’t she find out who had sent what to the commission that she chaired?
Nezzie is concerned for the integrity of the HRC. How many other complaints have been ignored or sidetracked for political reasons? How many people’s rights have been violated by the commissioners themselves who leaked confidential information? That’s why this meeting became so contentious. People around here are outraged at the HRC, and afraid for their lives. At the meeting, a member of the public expressed her outrage about Commissioner Glover’s actions and vowed to take these complaints to the Grand Jury. Glover glibly replied, “That’s OK, I’m the foreman of the Grand Jury too.”
Since Wades resignation, Commissioner Jim Glover was elected Chairman of the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission, filling the void left by Wade. A motion was raised to consider an anonymous letter that the commission received, asking for the resignation of Commissioner Glover, but before it could be considered, Commissioner Byrd Lochte made a motion to ignore the letter, and that motion carried. The Humboldt County Human Rights Commission has seven vacancies in it’s 15 seats, and no budget, but apparently, it serves it’s purpose. That is, if you accept that the purpose of the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission is to act as a figleaf to cover-up abusive county policies and protect violent criminals with political connections.
Humboldt County has a long history of addressing perceived social problems with mob violence. It’s never worked, but we don’t seem much interested in finding an alternative. In many ways, we’re the “deep south” of the Pacific Northwest, and our “good ol’ boys” rival any you’re likely to find in Alabama or Mississippi. Any potential victims of human rights abuse in Humboldt County ought to know that. Save your breath, because Humboldt County’s good ol’ boys will smother you. This is just one example of how Humboldt County’s “good ol’ boy” network works, and how our county government, doesn’t.