FREMONT, Calif. — What was anticipated to be a celebratory occasion took an unexpected turn as a group of protesters gathered at the Fremont City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, signaling their intent to recall State Senator Aisha Wahab (D-District 10), who was there to present a $2 million check.
Wahab presented two symbolic checks totaling $2 million to the council on Tuesday, Oct. 10. These funds are earmarked to support the city’s housing navigation center ($500,000) and expand Wi-Fi access ($1.5 million). However, the focal point of the presentation was the presence of a dozen or so people with signs advocating for Wahab’s recall. This protest was spurred by her sponsorship of a bill aiming to make California the first state in the country to outlaw caste discrimination.
During the meeting, a couple of protesters expressed their concerns during public comments, urging the City Council not to pass a local ordinance or resolution prohibiting caste discrimination.
Although the protesters displayed signs, no official filing documents were found with Alameda or Santa Clara counties, leaving the formal status of the recall effort unknown. The effort does have a website that is actively collecting donations and signing up volunteers.
Among its grievances, the recall website lists Wahab’s sponsorship of bills:
- banning child marriages,
- preventing public employees from engaging in lobbying or political consulting activities for at least a year after leaving their jobs,
- preventing landlords from looking into prospective tenants’ criminal records,
- and banning caste discrimination.
The social hierarchies created by caste systems leave the groups at the bottom of those hierarchies, such as the Dalit community in South Asia, at acute risk of experiencing discrimination, harassment and violence in various aspects of life. Wahab introduced Senate Bill 403 at the start of the year to ensure caste-oppressed people had their civil rights explicitly protected by the law, though it faced backlash from some members of the Hindu community who felt it was unfairly targeting them.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, on the other hand, did not think the legislation was necessary, stating in his veto letter Saturday that current laws are sufficient in protecting against caste discrimination. Wahab responded Tuesday that explicit protections wouldn’t have been sought if there wasn’t an unmet need.
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.
Protesters hold Recall Wahab signs at the Fremont City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, as State Senator Aisha Wahab (D-District 10) presents the city with $2 million for municipal projects. (Sonia Waraich – East Bay Echo)