S. E. Williams |

After being uninvited to Orange County, Republican Party darlings and Congresspersons  Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene and their roadshow, America First, scheduled for Sunday, July 18 at the Riverside Convention Center was hastily cancelled on Friday. 

In an official statement , city officials made it clear the event was booked through the  Raincross Hospitality Corp. (RHC) and was not an “endorsement by the City of Riverside” regarding what might be expressed at the event. 

RHC is contracted with the City of Riverside to manage and operate the Riverside Convention Center (and Visitors Bureau) on its behalf as both are owned by the city. It is also true that such contracts do not mean city officials abdicate their oversight nor does it absolve them of accountability. 

When news of the event became public in recent days a firestorm erupted across the area  and the city took steps to reassure the furious citizenry, “The City of Riverside is an inclusive community and has affirmed its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through the City Council’s actions.”  

This may be true, but for the city to come so close to economically benefitting from such vitriolic racist demagoguery as engaged in by Gaetz and Taylor is as concerning as the potential for conflicts and clashes that exists with such events.

Should more careful consideration be given to the of contracts it approves and/or the types of events from which the city prospers, especially when such dollars are tied to something so racists, divisive and destructive to the political and social fiber of the very city that on July 1, 2020 declared “Racism a Public Health Crisis”? 

In its statement the city also stressed, “The cost of providing security for the event is borne by the event organizers, not the City of Riverside.” 

Safety is essential, yet the larger question of why the city is doing business with a company that does business with racists is equally important to understand and prevent.

SCNG reported an unnamed city councilmember opined “[The city] did not have the authority to cancel the event.” The question is, should it? 

Riverside dodged a political backlash with the event’s cancellation but what about next time? These are volatile days. If the city truly believes racism is a public health crisis should its business arrangements not reflect its values?  

Should city officials take some proactive steps to ensure both the city and those acting on its behalf like RHC, not be enriched by doing business with those who demonize minorities, denigrate members of the LGBTQ community, deny the Holocaust, subscribe to QAnon conspiracy theories, and/or are accused of child sex trafficking?  According to its agreement with the city, RHC earns $600,000 per year and an additional half million dollars per year when it exceeds its revenue goals for the Convention Center.

In the final analysis the convention center is funded by the city and the city profits from events held there.

Municipalities benefitting from such events is an example of how institutional and systemic racism is both normalized and persists. 

On Saturday, Gaetz threatened to sue the City of Riverside for cancelling the rally while in the meantime, a subsequent rally scheduled for Anaheim on Saturday was also cancelled. 

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. Stephanie  has won awards for both her column and investigative reporting.Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.

Above Photo: Republican U.S. Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz (Greene photo courtesy of Facebook and Gaetz courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.