The controversy over a Huntington Beach resident’s bigoted online comments and offline associations with known alt-right racists came before the Ocean View School District board of trustees meeting last night. Gracey Van Der Mark, a member of the district’s Measure R Citizens Oversight Committee, referred to blacks at a Committee for Racial Justice workshop in Santa Monica as “colored people” doing the bidding of Jews in written comments to her own YouTube video from the event. During the hours-long meeting, the board voted 4-1 to remove Van Der Mark from her post.
A month after trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin appointed Van Der Mark to the committee in June, she traveled to Santa Monica to crash the white privilege workshop with dubious company. The alt-right group Van Der Mark joined included the likes of Vincent James Foxx of the Red Elephants, Johnny Benitez, vlogger Baked Alaska and Augustus Invictus–the latter two were scheduled speakers at the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia just days later. She uploaded four YouTube videos of the workshop after managing to get inside.
Dozens packed last night’s school board meeting with trustees set to vote on whether or not to dismiss Van Der Mark from her post. Supporters described Van Der Mark to be a “patriotic” and “civic-minded” woman who “doesn’t have a racist bone in her body.” Others favored Van Der Mark’s removal. After the controversy first publicly arose, she scrubbed the “colored people” comments as well as a YouTube playlist promoting anti-Semitic Holocaust revisionist videos. Van Der Mark denied all accusations of racism and antisemitism.
Before last night, calls for Van Der Mark’s removal sounded at the Apr. 16 Huntington Beach city council meeting. Following her school district post, councilman Patrick Brenden appointed Van Der Mark to the city’s finance commission. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) weighed in on the matter by delivering an Apr. 13 letter to the school board and city council about their own vetting of Van Der Mark. Jewish rabbis, including the ADL’s own Orange County regional director Peter Levi, spoke out on the controversy during the council meeting that followed.
But in the minds of her backers over at the school board meeting, Van Der Mark did no wrong. “Of course, a rabbi who is ideologically opposed to her in immigration matters is going to paint her in the worst light,” Joe DeVore said during public comments. “[Clayton]-Tarvin is going to do the same thing because she personally does not like Gracey.” A Jewish friend of Van Der Mark’s vouched for her claiming no knowledge of any antisemitism in the years they’ve known each other while describing outspoken rabbis as “malicious gossips.”
The pro-Van Der Mark camp found a champion on the school board in trustee Norm Westwell who voted against her removal. “Gracey Van Der Mark is not a racist,” he said during the meeting. “There’s a well-orchestrated effort by progressive socialists and people in our labor groups to have Gracey, a known conservative, removed from the Measure R Oversight Committee.” A huffy Westwell grilled anti-Van Der Mark speakers if they had bothered to contact her about the comments at issue, a line of questioning he extended to the board and superintendent Carol Hansen. The superintendent left a voicemail with Van Der Mark, who replied by email. Hansen then had a deputy superintendent try to contact her by phone unsuccessfully. Board president Jack Souders also noted he called Van Der Mark but that she had hung up on him.
She did contact the superintendent and board before the meeting, stating she couldn’t be there due to a prior commitment. “How can you take a vote this evening without doing due diligence?” Van Der Mark asked, claiming Westwell was the sole trustee to contact her about the controversy. The ousted oversight committee member railed against Clayton-Tarvin and trustee John Briscoe for “defaming” remarks and “perilous attacks” against her. “I was appointed as the Taxpayer Organization Member,” she stated. “Please remember, I was the only applicant that fulfilled this requirement.”
The Weekly asked Van Der Mark for comment on last night’s vote, but received no response.
As the ADL noted, Van Der Mark also promoted Islamophobic conspiracies that the government is funding sharia law indoctrination in public schools. “Access Islam is funded by our very own U.S. Department of Education,” Van Der Mark stated in a Facebook screenshot taken by the Weekly. In the same comment thread, she pointed to an Access Islam website she claimed educators use to teach children Islam.
But even with Van Der Mark gone from the Measure R Citizens Oversight Committee, “Graceygate” continues. Speakers criticized Westwell for a signature-gathering effort underway to rescind the appointment of OVSD trustee Patricia Singer, a Mexican-American Republican, who is supported by Clayton-Tarvin. With an election slated for November anyway, critics argued a recall ballot would needlessly cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chatter about who’d run against her in such an election? Van Der Mark.
The drama returns to city council in the meantime. Van Der Mark supporters are rallying a big turn out for the May 7 council meeting in efforts to keep her on the finance commission. But in an appeal to respectability politics, organizers are telling people to refrain from dressing up in Three Percenter “tactical” gear or pro-Trump wear.
The MAGA Emperor’s minions truly have no clothes!