Collins: Political discourse is out of control
Protesters inside the office of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors on June 7, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors.

    On June 7, more than 30 protesters from LUNA, the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, Unhoused Response Group, Working Partnerships USA, South Bay Community Land Trust and other San Jose-based nonprofit organizations trespassed on private property, harassed, terrorized and even verbally assaulted an employee at the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors.

    What started as a fairly tame protest erupted into total chaos when they came into our building. Our staff asked them to leave dozens of times, but the protesters ignored them. Several staff members called 911 as the group became more emboldened.

    I have one employee who had to seek medical attention. I have two other employees who were verbally assaulted. They were called “racist” and “murderers” and shouted at, “I’m homeless, don’t put me in a box to die.” Other protesters screamed “help” over and over at the top of their lungs.

    Even as I replay the videos to make sure all my quotations are accurate, I have to close my office door because just the sounds of these videos trigger some on my team. They worry about the protestors invading our office again, particularly because Sandy Perry, vice president of the South Bay Community Land Trust, said, “This makes a really good target for all our housing issues” and “this is the place to come.”

    One of my employees who struggles with mental health shared her personal story before the San Jose City Council.

    “One of the things that still haunts me is the woman on the megaphone laughing, saying ‘now this is just fun,’” she said. “Thirty people came into my safe place at work, shouting at me, calling me names and taunting me. No, I am not OK.”

    Our employees deserve a safe place to work. Is this what our political discourse has deteriorated to?

    This is unacceptable behavior and we will not tolerate it. You should be able to disagree and have policy differences without trespassing, harassing and terrorizing those with whom you disagree. These groups made a miscalculation when they entered our office and harassed our staff. Their attempt to silence us has only served to further unify our association and strengthen our resolve.

    There is no place in San Jose politics for groups that willfully break the law, particularly those that are funded by taxpayer money. There are some really fabulous nonprofit groups doing some amazing things in our community, but those who look to intimidate others from sharing their point of view should be expelled from these groups, especially if they do not represent the core values of the organization in which they are supposed to be serving. 

    San José Spotlight columnist Neil Collins is CEO of the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS, a trade association representing more than 6,000 real estate professionals in Santa Clara County and surrounding areas. His column appears every fourth Thursday of the month. Contact Neil at [email protected] or follow @neilvcollins on Twitter.

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