POMONA — Latino city officials and residents are up in arms over Councilman C.L. (Clay) Bryant's use of racially offensive terms in referring to a fellow councilman and the city administrator.
Accused by Councilman Tomas Ursua of calling Urusa a "Chicano gang member" and City Administrator Julio Fuentes a "beaner," Bryant admitted using the terms but said he has no apologies to make.
The use of the word "beaner," he said, "may be offensive, but it's not racist." He said he called Ursua a gang member because Ursua is allied with a political "gang" that is trying to recall Bryant from office.
Ursua called a press conference before Monday night's City Council meeting to assail Bryant for "anti-Hispanic" remarks. About 100 demonstrators marched in a circle outside the council chambers, some carrying signs in English or Spanish with such statements as: "Clay Bryant is a Closet Racist" and "Down with Racism in Pomona."
At the council meeting, Ursua read a two-page statement asserting that Bryant had denounced him at a closed-door council session last week as a "no-good Chicano gang member." The meeting was an executive session that ended with a call for a grand jury investigation of alleged irregularities in the city licensing department.
Ursua said Bryant has a history of making racist comments. Bryant denied only that he called Ursua no-good. "Ursua proclaimed at a council meeting that he is a Chicano and if that recall bunch is not a gang, tell me what it is," Bryant said.
Ursua said two city employees heard Bryant call Fuentes a "beaner." Bryant did not respond to that assertion at the council meeting, but later acknowledged use of the term, although he could not remember when it was used or with whom.
Fuentes said he was "shocked" that Bryant would use that word.
"He has never called me that to my face," Fuentes said. "I take it as an offensive remark. I really think it's derogatory. Not even in jest has a good friend of mine ever referred to me as a beaner."
Fuentes said the allusion to Latinos as beaners, or bean-eaters, is as offensive as labeling a black person as someone who likes watermelon and chicken.
Ursua, who recently broke with Bryant after being his ally on the council for months, said Bryant has patronized and played minority groups against each other.
Bryant said he regarded the accusations by Ursua and the demonstration at City Hall as part of a plan by his longtime opponent, Mayor Donna Smith, Ursua and others to stir up attention for the recall election June 5.
Smith said she had nothing to do with the demonstration.
Racism is so far from his thoughts, Bryant said, that he wouldn't even know how to make a racist remark.
Bryant said: "Every day I have people of all extraction and persuasions in my office. . . . The subject of racism has never arisen in my office or out of it."
Waunidi Changamire, president of the Pomona Valley chapter of the NAACP, defended Bryant, saying that he has always been available to assist people in their problems with the city.
"I don't know who would have helped the black churches, the black businesses and some of the other people that have had problems in the city if it were not for Mr. Bryant," she said.
Ursua said he had planned to ask the council to censure Bryant, but changed his mind, feeling that he had made his point. Councilwoman Nell Soto, who, like Ursua, is Latino, said she has always opposed censure motions because they divide the community.