Photo by Pat Hendricks Munson
Photo by Pat Hendricks Munson

A prominent group of local elected officials, clergy, businessmen and residents gathered at the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper, on June 10, to protest bigoted remarks made against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel by presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Judge Curiel holds a common bond with each of the men at the podium and many of those in attendance – are members of the historic Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

The American-born judge of Latino descent was targeted by Trump who stated that Curiel was treating him unfairly in a legal case initiated by former Trump University students. Two lawsuits in San Diego and one in New York allege that the school was unlicensed, illegal and a scam. The students claim that they paid thousands of dollars for worthless real estate classes.

During a campaign rally, Trump told supporters that Judge Curiel, “…happens to be, we believe, Mexican,” and further suggested that Curiel was biased because of Trump’s calls to build a wall along the border to prevent illegal immigration.

“Just when you thought that Donald Trump could not sink any lower, we were wrong,” said Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson). “When will the name-calling, the bigotry, the gender attacks and the hate stop? Trump says he wants to build a wall. Well, here in California and across our nation…we build bridges.”

Assemblymember Gipson led the group of Kappa Psi Alpha Fraternity brothers, including Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles); Councilman Jawane Hilton (Carson); Former Mayor Daniel Tabor (Inglewood); Leo Cablayan, Former Mayor Daniel Tabor, Polemarch (Pasadena Alumni Chapter); and Pastor Elliott Bradley (Los Angeles Chapter).

Gipson remarked on Trump’s repetitive reference to race and ethnicity, “Last week at a campaign rally in Redding California, Trump sought to tout his support among African-Americans by pointing out a black man in the crowd. ‘Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?’”

Hilton stated, “We’ve made so much progress in America. It’s sad to think that still, people think that way… The insults that this presumptive presidential nominee is hurling at communities all across the world – the Muslim communities, the Latino communities, and the African American communities – this has to stop. His code words ‘Make America Great Again’ are simply code words to take us back to slavery days.”

Tabor said, “Judge Gonzalo Curiel has achieved significantly in his profession such that a Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, appointed him to the bench; and achieved as a jurist such that a president appointed him to a federal bench.” Tabor praised Judge Curiel as a highly accomplished man and member of the 105-year-old Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. founded on the campus of Indiana University, the same campus where Judge Curiel pledged.

After undergrad and law school at Indiana University, Curiel worked as a federal prosecutor in Southern California for 13 years. During that time he fought Mexican drug cartels; was the target of an assassination plot; lived a year in hiding and was under the constant protection of bodyguards.

“When it comes to just keeping this country together and making sure that we move ahead as one, because that’s what America is all about, he (Trump) is the exact opposite,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer Sr. “This judge has an impeccable record. Latino gang members have even targeted him because he is trying to make California safe. As chair of Public Safety for the state of California, I welcome this judge in his efforts to make America safe. The fact that Donald Trump is impugning his voracity as a judge simply because of his race is totally unacceptable.“

Leo Cablayan stated, “It’s important that everyone understand that we can’t settle for this type of rhetoric to go unchallenged. Donald Trump has, over and over again, spewed casual types of comments that are insulting to all areas of our country.”

Pastor Elliott Bradley stated, “We feel that the season of accountability has hit the front door of Donald Trump. The future of our country is too important.”

“We are also here to speak up for Judge Curiel because he is bound by federal judicial ethics not to respond to Trump’s remarks,” said Asm. Gipson. “Trump is no more than a school yard bully.”

Although Trump has apologized for his comments on Judge Curiel, the group collectively described the apology as insincere and does not go far enough.

“My comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” Trump said in the apology statement. “I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.”

Still, the apology did little to dispel the sentiment among the leaders gathered last Friday that a Trump presidency would be dangerous for the country.

Thomas L. Battles Jr, Grand Polemarch, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. issued a statement that the organization “stands firmly against the practice of judging a man solely by his race, creed or national origin. We believe all Americans are entitled to the freedoms afforded by the Constitution without regards to race. Our fraternity will continue to oppose all forms of racism and rebuke those who promote evil.”

The press conference concluded as the leaders thanked the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper as the “voice of the community” and Danny J. Bakewell Jr., executive editor and member of Kappa Alpha Psi.