A group of 20 to 30 protesters marched in front of the Fullerton home of Marilyn Davenport, the embattled member of the Orange County Republican Central Committee who sent an email two weeks ago depicting the president of the United States as a chimpanzee.
The email contained the words, "Now you know why--No birth certificate." The birth certificate issue is a cause taken up by so-called "birthers," a fringe group that includes a number of Tea Partiers and possible presidential contender Donald Trump, who claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore not a natural-born citizen and inelible to be president. Davenport is a member of the Tea Party.
The birther ideas persist, even though the president has released a copy of his Certification of Live Birth, which indicates that he was born in Honolulu on August 4, 1961. The state attorney general's office and the director of the Hawaii Department of Health have confirmed the validity of the birth certificate, but birthers claimed it was not the official form. Wednesday, Obama released the long form, called a Certificate of Live Birth.
Led by civil-rights activist Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., the protest group chanted such slogans as, "The people united can never be divided" and "Davenport must resign!"
Ali said the contingent did not know if Davenport was home or not. A small number of Fullerton police officers stood nearby, watching Saturday's peaceful protest, but did not intervene. "No one should be allowed to disparage the president or his family and compare them to chimpanzees because that's when you cross the line," said Ali.
Scott Baugh, Orange County GOP chairman, early on called for Davenport's resignation, as did other GOP officials. But Davenport, an elected member of the central committee, has fiercely maintained that she will not resign. She has a number of party allies, who dismissed the depiction as mere humor and not meant to be racist.
Baugh said he received the email Friday (April 16) and immediately replied to Davenport, stating that her note was "dripping with racism and is in very poor taste."
He has called for an ethics committee hearing on the matter. "Anybody who crosses a line that is this bright has no business being an elected official representing other people, holding yourself out as a person of trust to make decisions on the behalf of the party," Baugh was quoted as saying. "It was so outrageous, it warrants a resignation."
News of the email engendered outcries from other groups, including the California State NAACP and California Friends of the African American Caucus, the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network and L.A. Humanity Foundation, which labeled the characterization racist.
As for her motivation for sending the depiction of the chimp family--two parents and one offspring, all dressed as humans, with the picture of Obama's face superimposed over the young chimp's face--Davenport portrayed it as an innocent joke.
As she told the OC Weekly, which broke the story: "I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth. In no way did I even consider the fact he's half-black when I sent out the email." Some saw Davenport's use of the terminology "half-black" was as insensitive as the picture.
Davenport's apologies have rung hollow to most Blacks, who are particularly sensitive to such characterizations. Protesters say she has a history of such depictions regarding certain ethnic groups.
The California NAACP through its president, Alice Huffman, issued a statement Sunday saying the cartoon is "racist, outrageous and disrespectful."
"There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this cartoon, it is absolutely and positively racist in nature," the statement said. "There is no way that depicting the President of the United States as less than human can be considered anything but a racist act. History has shown that Blacks have been depicted in this fashion in the past to degrade African Americans as not human. Anyone who does not know this history is either ignorant, had their head buried in the sand; or as we at the NAACP believe simply racist."