Activist arrested after alleged threat to Bakersfield City Council sparks community response

April 18, 2024 /

During the Bakersfield City Council meeting a pro-Palestinian protester was arrested and accused of 18 felony counts after they made threatening remarks towards the city council members on April 10. 

Riddhi Patel, 28, was arrested after they told the council members during their public statement “We’ll see you at your house. We’ll murder you.” 

During their public statement, Patel said the increase in metal detectors and police appear to target individuals who seek to hold the council accountable for trying to introduce ceasefire resolutions. 

“The increased criminalization for no need other than you don’t like when people come and hold you guys accountable for introducing ceasefire resolutions because the only escalation in violence has been by you all and so there’s no need to continue. In the last five years, I’ve attended city council meetings, there’s never been metal detectors, there’s never been more cops. The only reason you’re doing it is because people actually don’t care if you guys don’t like them and they’re actually resisting so you want to criminalize them,” Patel said.  

Patel was arrested after returning to their seat. 

According to KGET, Patel’s bail has since been reduced to $500,000 during Patel’s court hearing which was previously detained with bail set at $1 million. Patel pleaded not guilty on April 12.  

Since the March 27 City Council meeting, metal detectors and bag screenings have been operational at City Hall South. The council members approved the vote on city-wide security measures at public city buildings, meetings and events during the April 10th meeting. During the public statements hearing on April 10 several Pro-Palestiinian protesters questioned the timing of the safety measures.  

The United Liberation Front, a free-Gaza group who have been attending the council meetings, released a public statement regarding Patel’s comments to the council members. “It does not represent those of us in the community who continue to show up and exercise our civic duty by engaging directly with our elected representatives,” the group wrote in their public statement. 

The Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment (CRPE) had also released a statement regarding Patel termination with the nonprofit after Patel’s comments. 

“We unequivocally condemn any threats of violence or unethical behavior. CRPE has been committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity, professionalism, and respect in all our work and interactions for the past 35 years. As a result of this incident, we made the decision to terminate Riddhi Patel. We recognize this is a difficult situation, and we are dedicated to handling it with the utmost care and sensitivity.” 

CRPE said they will continue to focus on their mission of advancing environmental justice and civil rights in the communities they serve. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to fostering a culture of non-violence, inclusivity, and respect.”

Since CRPE announced Patel’s termination the People’s Budget Bakersfield set up a donation fund due to Patel’s job loss. 

“Riddhi is a beacon of light in our community, known for their infectious laughter and unwavering passion for organizing marginalized communities on the path to liberation. They have been a steadfast pillar of support, extending a helping hand to countless families during the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent tragedies exacerbated by government neglect,” the People’s Budget Bakersfield wrote in the fund. “Now, it is our turn to rally around Riddhi in their time of need. Let us demonstrate the power of solidarity and mutual aid by offering our support to this beloved member of our community. Together, we can ensure that Riddhi is not left to face these challenges alone.”

As of April 18, the fund has over 150 contributors and raised over $7,800 for Patel. There were several anonymous and public comments in the fund showing support for Patel: 

  • “With love and solidarity, don’t give up. We have your back!” 
  • “Stay strong and keep fighting the good fight! With love from Chicago!”
  • “I’m embarrassed FOR CRPE. I wish they had the courage to stand by Riddhi instead of bowing to the white supremacist view of ‘being nice and harmless’ when it comes to people fighting for justice.”
  • “Riddhi has dedicated their life to fighting for liberation and against oppression of all forms. I’ve learned so much from them about community and care and I’m heartbroken that they have become the target of the systems they have fought against.”

Vice Mayor Andrae Gonzales spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper on April 16 to discuss his reaction to Patel’s threat towards him and his fellow city council members. Gonzales said it was shocking, chilling and horrifying. “It was important for the city of Bakersfield to be represented well. This isn’t a positive news story for our community, frankly,” Vice Mayor Gonzales told CNN. 

Patel’s next court appearance is scheduled on April 24 at 9 a.m.

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Haley Duval

Haley is a reporter for Kern Sol News since December of 2023. She was born and raised in East Bakersfield and went to Foothill High School. Haley has AA in Journalism from Bakersfield College. When Haley is not reporting, she enjoys writing poetry, reading, traveling and spending time with friends and family. She can be reach at haley@southkernsol.org.