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Emergency Services Director Briefed Gov. Gavin Newsom On Threat Of Hate Groups During First Week in Office

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Gov. Gavin Newsom says his emergency services director warned him about the risk of white supremacists and hate groups in California during his first week in office — but his administration is still reviewing ways to address the issue.

At a press conference Monday with law enforcement, government officials and civil rights leaders, Newsom acknowledged the state needs to do more to stem the growth of hate groups. He cited the need for improved mental health resources in early education and additional law enforcement funding, but he did not lay out any specific proposals.

“There’s no question in that space that we have a lot of work to do to get to where we need to be,” Newsom said.

After the San Diego synagogue shooting earlier this year, Newsom approved $15 million in one-time spending to improve security at nonprofits susceptible to hate crimes. The funding is a significant increase from previous years. This year’s budget also allocated about $800,000 to improve data collection on hate groups.

White nationalism was initially cited as a potential motive in the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting last week,  though law enforcement has since pushed back on that theory. The concern has remained at the surface after a shooting in El Paso over the weekend left at least 22 dead. The shooter appears to have posted an online manifesto before the attack, claiming it “is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Outside of a Santa Clara County hospital the day after the Gilroy shooting, Newsom told reporters his first meeting with Mark Ghilarducci, director of California’s Office of Emergency Services, focused on hate groups and white nationalism.

“It was the first week I was in office that I sat down with my emergency director thinking we were going to talk about preparing for wildfires like the Camp and Woolsey fire. And he says, ‘You know what we need to focus on? White supremacy. We need to focus on hate groups,’” Newsom said. “God as my witness, that was the first meeting I had as governor, talking about emergency preparedness after those two horrific fires.”

It’s unclear if Newsom’s first meeting with Ghilarducci focused on hate groups and white nationalism exclusively, as he suggests, or if the meeting covered a variety of topics.

“While I don’t anticipate we will [be] providing specifics on [a] confidential briefing, I can tell you that upon taking office the Governor was briefed on all manner of threats facing the state including wildfires, floods, earthquakes, cyberattacks and domestic violent extremism including the growing threat of white nationalist groups,” Brian Ferguson, spokesperson for the Office of Emergency Services, wrote in an email.

The governor’s office referred comment to the Office of Emergency Services. 

Scott Rodd

State Government Reporter

Scott Rodd previously covered government and legal affairs for the Sacramento Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Scott worked as a freelance reporter in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.  Read Full Bio 

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