An Asian American
Lynette Lee Eng is a city councilwoman in Los Altos, next to Palo Alto, a rich and Democratic area of northern California. She was elected in 2008.
In November, she was asked to vote on a proposal that removed two police resource officers from the two high schools in the city, and that would put a third party in charge of handling and processing complaints against the Los Altos Police Department, which has 32 officers and has received 1 use of force complaint in the last six years, and 15 complaints in total.
She felt it was a rushed vote, pushed through by the outgoing mayor who was the city’s first black mayor and who wanted to get the proposal passed in her final days in office after the outrage sparked by
Lee-Eng voted to remove the school resource officer from one high school – where students said they didn’t want him anymore – but she voted to abstain on moving police complaints to a third party because she wanted to know how much it would cost the city. The others approved it.
Immediately afterwards, she received a text from Kenan Moos, the 22-year-old organizer of Justice Vanguard warning her: ‘Your name will be all over the papers’ and saying ‘we know there are racists that supported you.’
Because the meeting was still ongoing and happening virtually on Zoom, she announced the text she’d just received. She never said that he had threatened her, but said she felt was worried for her family’s safety.
In the weeks that followed, Moos, his family and his supporters said repeatedly that it was racist of her to make out that he’d been threatening her, and that it increases his chances of getting killed by police.
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Lynette Lee Eng is a city councilwoman in Los Altos, next to Palo Alto, a rich and Democratic area of northern California. She was elected in 208. In November, activist Kenan Moos texted her after she abstained from voting on police reform. She said the texts made her fear for her safety. She has since been branded a racist
Immediately after voting, she received a text from Kenan Moos, the 22-year-old organizer of Justice Vangaurd warning her: ‘Your name will be all over the papers’ and saying ‘we know there are racists that supported you.’
‘Councilmember Lee Eng, your false accusation has put a target on my back. Some in the community may think that I pose a threat to others. My odds of a negative interaction with police are already high.
‘Lynette, your false accusations have increased the odds that I could be killed by the police,’ he said during another town hall meeting, weeks later.
His mother, Toni Moos, piled on.
‘My husband and I were standing next to our son as he sent those texts….At no point in time did he ever threaten her safety or that of her family,’ she said. He then accused her of ‘criminalizing’ him.
One person stuck up for her publicly, saying she had every right to feel threatened because campaign signs had been damaged with ‘racist’ spray painted over them.
Others have sent emails to the city council voicing their support.
In an interview with DailyMail.com on Thursday, Lee-Eng said she now fears cancel culture will erode local politics and stop people from representing their constituents properly, because everyone’s too afraid to speak their minds.
‘Did I feel threatened? I guess I can’t say that word.
‘I felt fear. But that is the trouble; if we feel a certain way, we’re the bad person, you can’t say anything. It’s troubling.
‘Your representatives will not feel like they can freely represent you.
‘I am hesitant to speak out of course which is sad. This is going to change how I interact with my constituents’.
She added that she doesn’t necessarily fear Moos nor did she think he was threatening her directly, but worries about what others might take from comments.
The vote was on introducing a third party to handle complaints to the Los Altos Police Department, instead of allowing them to process them themselves. Since 2015, the force has had a total of 15 complaints and only one for use of force. There are 32 officers in the force. Lynette wanted to know how much it was going to cost the city to bring in the third party auditor, and if it was really necessary. The other councilmembers voted it through
Lynette is shown on November 24, during a city council meeting, where she announced that she’d just received the text from Moos and she feared for her family’s safety
After she announced the text to the city council and those watching at home, Moos sent this message
‘It’s not the individual. It’s what they can incite or trigger others to do,’ she said.
She says that while she receives support from people in her constituency, it comes from an older generation who are less tech savvy and don’t therefore counterbalance the public conversation on social media because they just don’t use it.
What is left are posts about Lee-Eng on social media and local and student newspaper articles on the issue that she says are unsympathetic to her.
‘You’re dealing with a group that’s more savvy on social media. This is your younger generation. Whereas we have a community that is largely older.
‘They’re not comfortable with technology. I get people who reach out to me based on phone calls, people stopping by or seeing my husband in the street.
‘They share their support and say they are concerned about me.’
Lee-Eng said she hasn’t received any more threats or forms of harassment and that she believes it’s because she made it public.
‘The police actually told me that because I’ve made all of this public, action [of any kind from anyone] is less likely. People have attempted to reach out to me. But I am hesitant any word you say it would get twisted. They will pick, pick, pick.’
Several weeks later, Moos spoke at another council meeting to accuse Lee-Eng of putting a target on her back. He said she’d increased his chances of getting killed by police because she said she was concerned for her safety
Moos’ mother Toni (top left) also spoke at the meeting to disparage Lee-Eng and say she had ‘vacillated’ on issues by abstaining on the vote until she had more information. Lee-Eng is shown in the bottom right corner of the screen
On November 24, she voted to abstain from a proposal that would overhaul how police complaints were handled in Los Altos.
‘There was an outgoing mayor – the city’s first black mayor – and she really, really wanted to get this done in her last days. This was critical to her.
‘I just wanted a better understanding of the process and how much it would cost going forward. That’s the reason I abstained. Understanding what the costs would be is important to me. This isn’t just, “we should do this because it’ll make the appearance of the right thing to do.”
The pair had a cordial correspondence before the vote in November. Lynette said she was working to improve race relations in the town
‘If it’s not justified we need to know. But the mayor said no and we had to vote so I abstained. I was just doing my job reviewing all the items.’
‘When we were having the discussion, we couldn’t have a thorough discussion. I questioned it, I wanted to revisit it and get more data but it was “let’s get this through” and “make it happen”. We didn’t get a chance to hear from the police department, if we wanted to do a thorough job we would have least let them weigh in.’
During the discussion, at 12.30am, she checked her cell phone because she’d been expecting news of a gravely-ill family member. That’s when she saw the text from Moos.
Lee Eng said she felt immediate ‘fear’ because of other local politicians who’d had their homes descended on by people who disagreed with them.
She brought it up, making it public while the meeting was still ongoing.
‘Before we move forward – the reason I voted is because I am getting messages from Vanguard calling me racist now. I did it because I lacked information and there are other reasons.
‘I’m making this public now because if anything were to occur to me or my family. I’m making it known that I voted the way because of lack of information and because I had concerns moving forward. I just want to protect myself and protect my family.
‘People are saying they’re concerned about voicing concerns? I’m very concerned about how I am being treated.’
The other councilwomen in the meeting unanimously agreed with her. They said it was ‘unacceptable’ that she felt threatened.
Lynette said she scared to have friendly, informal talks with constituents now for fear of retribution. She is pictured with her sons and her husband
She then received another text from Moos, who was watching the meeting.
It said: ‘I just want to be clear, this is no way a threat of any kind. This is me expressing my disappointment.’
Lee-Eng told DailyMail.com that she felt sudden fear not of Moos himself or of their organization, but of the people they might incite or encourage.
‘I’m an Asian woman, there have been attacks on the other mayors and councilmembers within the close-by jurisdictions; their positions were not in line with certain groups and their homes were faced with attacks,’ she said.
Neither Moos not Justice Vanguard responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment on Thursday. Before the incident in November, Lee-Eng had spoken with him about starting diversity training for city workers.
Jeannie Bruins, another city councilwoman, was told to apologize after using the phrase ‘you’re out of your cotton picking mind’ during a different Los Altos City Council meeting. She was talking about imposing a mask mandate outdoors and didn’t agree with it
‘I agreed that I’d want to make sure people are treated equitably in the city. I explained to him that to ensure equitability, I was fighting for implicit bias training and to ensure people are treated fairly,’ she said.
She says the entire debacle sets a ‘bad precedent’. ‘If I speak out, I get shut down.’
Freddie Park Wheeler, a concerned citizen who lives Los Altos, said: ‘There are so many people who live in this town who are afraid to speak up because they’re afraid of being called racist. We are concerned about there being consequences.’
In April, Lee-Eng said during a different meeting that Moos should apologize to her.
‘Enough is enough – this is disgusting. What should she apologize for, for being concerned for her family’s safety?’ said Frank Martin.
She was accused by others of a lack of empathy for refusing to apologize to Moos. Others are frustrated that the row has taken up time during town meetings.
Moos previously took on another councilwoman, Jeannie Bruins, for using the phrase ‘you’re out of your cotton picking minds’ during a meeting about imposing mask mandates.
Hundreds signed a petition saying she should resign. She has since apologized.
Kenon Moos did not respond to multiple requests for comment.