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Supporters turn out for Santa Clarita councilman who called himself 'proud racist'

January 27, 2010 | 10:55 am

Supporters of a Santa Clarita councilman who called himself a “proud racist” at a recent anti-immigration rally packed the city’s council chambers to praise him for speaking out on an issue many residents find frustrating.

A few opponents called on the councilman Tuesday night to apologize for his comments, but no action was taken. The remarks made by Bob Kellar, a veteran councilman who has twice served as the city’s mayor, set off a firestorm after some residents accused Kellar of using his position to spread divisiveness and hatred.

Some out-of-area activists vented their frustration outside City Hall before the meeting. They lambasted Kellar and claimed he had violated the city’s code of ethics -- an allegation that the city’s attorney said was unfounded.

But most of the overflow crowd that attended Tuesday’s four-hour council session praised Kellar as a “caring and compassionate leader,” “a patriot” and a “proud American.”

At a Jan. 16 anti-immigration rally in Santa Clarita, Kellar referred to a statement made by President Theodore Roosevelt, noting that the United States has a place for only one flag and one language. Kellar said those remarks caused some people to accuse him of being racist, to which he replied that if believing in America causes people to believe that he is racist, “then I’m a proud racist.” 

Roger Gitlin, founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen, who had helped organized the anti-immigration rally, defended Kellar’s remarks as “rhetorical hyperbole.”

“He got a little ahead of himself in words,” Gitlin said. “But in no shape or form is Bob Kellar a racist....He is tired of political correctness. Nobody hates anybody. We just want the rule of law.”

A U.S. Army veteran who served 25 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, Kellar told attendees at Tuesday’s meeting that he was a proud American who was critical of the failure of the federal government to tackle illegal immigration, which burdens the nation.

“Illegal immigration is a problem for all Americans, and we need to do our part to address it,” Kellar said. “If we are to remain a nation of laws, we must respect those laws.”

But opponents called Kellar’s remarks “disgraceful” and called on the councilman to at least issue an apology.

“This kind of language is divisive and harmful to our community,” said Harrison Katz, a candidate in this April’s election for City Council.

-- Ann M. Simmons