OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — When then-Hayward City Council Member Aisha Wahab was running for California State Senate for District 10 in last November’s election, she says she faced a level of violence she hadn’t seen before. She posted one of the voicemails she received to Instagram.
“You need a number to reach me at, b****? 911, cuz they’re going to need to f****** come to get your dead body!” says the caller.
Even after winning the senate race, which includes parts of the East Bay, Wahab says the threats haven’t stopped.
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“It is quite disgusting, and it’s alarming. And the fact that people can threaten to rape you and leave you, as they said, ‘in a body bag,’ and much more — those are all concerns for me. But more in particular, for my family, as well as the volunteers and staff that I have,” said Wahab, the first Afghan and first Muslim woman ever elected to the California State Senate.
She says her senate district office was also been broken into and robbed — all within her first month of taking office.
And it is not only her. Oakland City Council Member Carrol Fife recently posted a few of the voicemail threats she received, on Twitter.
“And you all need to go, including you. So, go nurture your own criminals and hopefully, you will be raped and murdered!” says one of the callers.
“It’s very challenging when you start to see this right-wing rhetoric pop up in Oakland, California,” Fife told ABC7 News in an interview two weeks ago. She is working with the Oakland police department and California State Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office regarding the threats.
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New data from a Princeton University study that tracks threats made to public officials, shows that women are targeted three times more than men.
Another report from the Center for Democracy and Technology finds that women of color are targets of violent abuse four times more than their white counterparts.
Many points to the recent attack on Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s husband as just one example of when political threats turn into real violence.
A coalition of Oakland community and labor groups is circulating a petition demanding that civic and business groups publicly condemn these types of attacks.
On Monday, Feb. 6, at 9 a.m., several local city and state leaders, including Wahab, Fife, and Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao will hold a rally in front of Oakland City Hall, to stand against the increasing threats of violence and harassment faced by elected officials, who are women of color.
“Enough is enough. As much as we respect people’s freedom of speech, this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has to do with the safety of an individual and where that line is crossed,” Wahab said.
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She says if people stay quiet about this type of abuse, it won’t stop. Especially given the anonymity offered by social media and the internet.
The Princeton study also finds that threats and harassment of local officials discourage civic engagement and undermine the work of public servants. Another reason, Wahab says, is why more needs to be done.