Stand up to despicable behavior in Condon Park

This past weekend, our local newspaper ran a commentary “Grass Valley not a safe place for people of all races” by a visitor from Yuba City.

“Local teenagers were yelling racial slurs” at her family in Condon Park, it read concluding: “What my family experienced this weekend was terrifying, and we feared for our safety.

“I want other tourists to know that they should discontinue their support of Grass Valley in order to prove to the city management that this hatred and racism has got to stop.”

I received an email about this from Susan Copeland, a longtime resident and businesswoman, as owner of Flour Garden Bakery. She was upset and later sent out an email to a broad group of community leaders and members in response:

“Dear Community Members,

I wanted to write to you about my concern for the recent events at Condon Park.

Having grown up in Washington D.C., it was not surprising that I found myself at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial 48 years ago at what turned out to be a seminal civil rights demonstration.

What is shocking is that 48 years after that event, African-Americans are being terrorized in my home town while peacefully trying to celebrate a 65th birthday with their mother.

As a nation we understand the power to destroy that a few deranged individuals hold.

As a nation we have made huge sacrifices to stop terrorist attacks. Is it not also important as a community, to stop these terrorist activities within our town?

These days every town struggles to serve its constituents and especially to address the needs of its most challenging citizens.

That being said, I feel that we must stand up as a community and denounce this despicable behavior.

Susan and William Copeland
Nevada City”

Thanks Susan for calling this out. Racism in our town — expressed in many forms — is an issue we have openly discussed from time to time on Sierra Foothills Report, and we have to stand up to it as a community.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

48 thoughts on “Stand up to despicable behavior in Condon Park”

  1. I hadn’t spent much time in Condon Park until this year, when my son played several NCLL Minor League games there. It had an edge to it that doesn’t make me want to spend much time there outside of baseball. I guess the best way to characterize it would be the “meth factor.”

    That being said, I think both Pioneer and Condon Parks have too little of a police presence, perhaps because of current budget constraints. But I sure would like to see more foot and bike patrols in both parks, and along Commercial St. in Nevada City, N. School St. in Grass Valley, and Calanan Park as well.

    And, of course, making substance abuse a medical issue instead of a criminal issue would be a tremendous help. But that would require the dismantling of the DEA Industrial Complex, which isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    Is there racism in Nevada County? Certainly there is, but how it manifests is the only thing we can control. I would put this problem under the category of “Nevada County towns morphing from Bedford Falls to Potterville,” more than anything else.

    1. I agree with Michael. Condon Park is not a place I would take my family for an outing or celebration. Too many times while running I’ve encountered groups where all activity and conversation stops (?) as I run by and greet them. In other counties I’ve been part of volunteer patrols, on horseback and on foot. Maybe if some of the various trail organizations volunteered for a weekend each month? I believe that some of the element there would migrate to somewherelse where they would be less bothered if more patrols of some kind were implemented. Have the skaters patrol their own park in cooperation with Grass Valley Police.

  2. I was also appalled when I read that letter to The Union.

    I agree with and support the comments in the letter from Susan and William Copeland.

    This might be a good place for us all to brainstorm on what more concrete steps we might take to begin addressing and healing this problem in our community.

    Is it too much to expect someone in the city to officially apologize to the victims?

    How about some community meetings to talk about educational initiatives?

  3. “You’ve got to be carefully taught . . .”
    We ought to find the parents of these little bigots and have a serious talk with them.

  4. Susan,
    I am sorry for the indefensible and racist behavior towards your family and friends especially your mother. Ignorance breeds ignorance and unfortunately our beautiful region of California does not have great ethnic diversity which leaves many with the fear of the unknown. As fearful people do, especially in a group setting, they lash out to hide their fear from their cohorts. I find it shameful that we cannot enjoy our own parks without having to look over our shoulders in such a small community.

    1. Sorry, my apologies were meant for Catherine Martin. Thank you to Susan Copeland for taking the initiative of informing community leaders of this unfortunately not isolated incident in our backyard.

  5. I knew racist was alive and well in Nevada County, when, during the 2008 election, I saw a large black pickup truck speeding away from the Republican HQ office, sporting a black baby doll’s head on each of the four corners of the lumber rack, and a large 4 foot by 6 foot sign in the bed of the truck.

    I’d be happy to set up and maintain a website dedicated to images of racism in NC, so that submitters of images,say like (bumper stickers and license plates) and sound bites captured via cell phone could be done anonymously. Unfortunately I missed getting a shot of that truck. Such a site might serve as a deterrent, once it was known to exist. I guess we’ll just have to wait for another generation or two to grow up…

  6. Sadly, this is nothing new in nevada county. I remember much of this behavior thirty years ago when I went to high school at NUHS. Judith brings up an excellent point. These kids are brought up this way by their parents and the ignorence is passed on generation to generation. It’s a sad way to live a life.

  7. Have had to deal with RACISM in Nevada County since I moved here many moons ago. I am surprised that folks are surprised. It is pretty much something I have decided to deal with personally by ignoring it, as long as it is not a safety issue. After all, the racist is not very enlightened, not the other way around, and frankly, I got a life to live and spending my time fixing the racist problem yields few results. I would suggest that what is taught in school will have a generational impact, and that is a LONG TIME. When some A%5#*%LE writes KKK and other really bright thinking racist stuff on my car (when in a movie), I just washed it off. No point to get blood pressure up over a A%%&)LE or a pack of the sitting/standing next to the ticket sales window. Not gonna let them take my freedom away. Nope. Besides, we got the Tea Party Unit here in town to look out for me! 🙂

  8. Thank you Susan Copeland for writing that letter. How would these little bigots feel if our citizenry gave them a dose of their own medicine while caught in the act.

  9. Interestingly enough, a few years ago I was going to the Flour Garden (Bill and Sue are my children’s God Parents). I saw the truck that Douglas mentioned in Brunswick. Due to the speed of the truck, the noise from their speakers, the baby heads, and the flag, I reported them to the police. As it turned out (if I remember correctly) they were from some other town and were here strewing fliers for the “National Alliance” (a neo-nazi organization) all over town.

  10. How did the City of Grass Valley respond?

    Nothng from the City in The Union or in the media so far…. a response OV in The Union would be one thing the City should do.

    1. Steve,etal – I emailed GV Mayor Jan Arbuckle last evening – she sent me a quick reply(see below). I asked the Mayor to send me a copy of the apology letter. I will post it here when I receive it.

      Note from GV Mayor
      We received the e-mail (same as the Other Voices) on June 13. I, along with two other Council members, immediately contacted Ms Martin and expressed our apologies and shared concern. The actions were denounced publicly at our last City Council meeting (June 14) and the City refunded the money she paid and sent a formal apology last week.

      The behavior exhibited by some of the youth is not acceptable and to the extent possible we are dealing with it by adding extra patrol checks in the park and having the fence at the skate park repaired. The City shares the concerns expressed and this is definitely not behavior we want in our community. After discussing this with Chief Foster, it appears to be an isolated incident but please know we are taking this very seriously.


      1. Nothng from the City in The Union or in the media so far…. a response OV in The Union would be one thing the City should do.

  11. Putting two and two together, the following may explain the attempts to get Pruett into office:

    A party comfortable with the notion of limits probably wouldn’t even attempt such an audacious scheme. Under the auspices of rooting out non-existent “voter fraud,” Republicans are passing voter-ID measures, approving new laws restricting voter-registration drives, and closing early-voting windows. It’s not subtle, but it is disgraceful. The GOP fears losing in a fair fight, so the party is trying to rig the game.

    Dionne added, “In part because of a surge of voters who had not cast ballots before, the United States elected its first African American president in 2008. Are we now going to witness a subtle return of Jim Crow voting laws?”

    Pretty much. The point of the GOP scheme is surprisingly similar to Jim Crow-era measures — identifying those the right doesn’t want to vote and passing laws that put barriers between them and the ballot box.

    That this might actually affect the outcome of the 2012 election should be a national scandal. That this is occurring with minimal media coverage is a national embarrassment.

    1. That seems to be the case after seeing Todd Juvinall’s rabid attack on Douglas Keachie over at his site. There are two people here who have seen that POS truck. Todd didn’t see it so maybe he thinks (new concept for him) that it doesn’t exist.

      1. I want to thank Todd Juvinall for proving my point. He did not see a certain truck that two posters on this thread saw. Because Todd didn’t see it, it didn’t exist. It’s this kind of insipid rhetoric that makes it difficult to ascertain if people like Juvinall and his ilk really have a point or speak any truth at all. What an embarrassment to true conservatives.

      2. Annie and all, I wish you could see that you are dancing with Todd. He feeds on your negative attention and will say anything to get a rise out of you. Your interest in Todd is the reason his toxic comments are amplified and disseminated. He pushes your buttons so you will notice him.

        Stop responding to Todd and his tribe and they will dry up and go away.

      3. Greg, in dancing with Todd I’m doing the “foot stomp” on him. I don’t respond on his blog because he will delete me or anyone who is correct. He also knows I “best” him in pushing buttons back. It’s a comic relief thing. If I didn’t utilize it, he would be even more boring.

    2. Mike,
      Don’t you know that racist terms and innuendo’s don’t promote this type of behavior because it is done in good fun and we need to get a sense of humor. I guess the Martin family and the many who are at the other end of this kind of behavior don’t get the joke either. Yet if the public schools teach the history of the deep racism and oppression of our nation as a negative it is indoctrination. When we live in a area with such little ethnic diversity where else are the up and coming generations going to learn about the struggles that people of color, women, disabled, labor, and indigenous people have endured?

      1. If Toddy wants to see what one looks like we have pictures of the hate truck from Plumas County. They were taken by school kids and others who saw it many times apparently…if he asked nice I’m sure they’d show em…Kate

  12. As someone who has raised his kids with a large reliance on the great resource that is Condon Park (and Pioneer, for that matter), married in the Love building, was on the Boys & Girls Clubs board in another area, and averages over twenty hours a week around those same picnic/basketball areas to this day, I can attest that all is not broken.
    Sure, the park reflects the area juvenile/young adult demographic. You are going to get some transients mixed with those that can skate mid-day, and a healthy dose of pot smoke – but I have never witnessed violence or the level of racial attack attested to by the woman writer. That is not to doubt the writer, and it is highly inexcusable behavior by a few, but let us be careful about profiling.
    Many days I have been the only adult/father figure, and obvious is that the park is largely an untended garden. The ball fields attract people for only a short period, while the skate & disc golf are for those that hang out – and a much needed collective point that could be easily regulated through observation.
    My take is that yes, there may be need for more patrols/presence, but by the woman’s retelling, the instigator is well known to police, so it should be easily handled.
    As to the rest of the racially charged mob mentality, I see no entry to the Police Blotter, etc. so can draw no other opinion than to assume that GVPD investigated.
    Those of use who spent our youth here are aware what the lack of ethnic diversity breeds; but for others to load the bandwagon and smear an entire community, correlating terrorism and civil rights struggles to this incident seems like divisive hype, rather than constructive resolve. But then, I’m more resilient than some, and am not afraid to engage and mentor through example rather than duck, grovel and run. I guarantee that if more of the even the fearful few that have responded here took their family, friends, or even a book, and spent a while occasionally to support the resource via a presence, there’d be a change.

    1. I’ve been there several times and never experienced a problem but I won’t say it doesn’t happen. That should never happen. If it did, I’ll stand up to them.

  13. J,
    I organized a basketball schedule for NU players and youth at the local parks and spend many hours in the parks every year. I don’t see them as dangerous but then again I am a white male who wasn’t threatened because the color of my skin didn’t match those were locals. Believe me I have been to dozens of parks where I am the fish out of water in my lifetime and I wasn’t treated so nicely. Basically I was challenging the local players on their court so it was expected. I was a very good B-Ball player back in the day and wasn’t afraid of throwing some punches to hold my ground. Sometimes knives were pulled or the use of guns threatened and that is when I would check my pride at the door and leave. That being said I can’t ever remember in those parks where people were harassed for having a picnic and celebrating a birthday no matter what the color of their skin.

    I also raised my kids here from the ages of elementary school to our oldest graduating from NU this year. I have coached basketball, football, softball, baseball, and soccer and used all the public parks. I have met many great kids and their parents. I have also seen subtle racism in the undercurrents. Racism isn’t biological is it taught either directly or through mirroring. It’s a generational thing caused by the lack of understanding a.k.a. ignorance and fear of the other.

    I am not lumping the whole community into a single group. I think like most communities a vast majority of people in Nevada County would be appalled at this story and speaking out is our way of saying we are not part of that minority of people who would condone such behavior.

    1. Ben –
      By all appearances you have done an admirable job as an engaged parent, and we apparently share a good many beliefs – but I take little from the above beyond a justification of the aforementioned hype, as I am well aware of the merits of public discourse.
      The facts do not clearly support your assertion that “…people were harassed for having a picnic and celebrating a birthday no matter what the color of their skin.” What I gleaned from the writer is that a few of the younger of the crowd claimed they were in an altercation of some sort at the skate park, and the adults took it upon themselves to confront the alleged offenders, resulting in a ‘name’ being hurled. As said, I do not condone any of this, and want justice, but also realize, as do you, that beyond just territorial pissings at a cliquish skate park or hoops court, if you really want to know what someone thinks of you, cut them off in traffic, drop something on their foot, or back them into a corner mentally or physically (as the adult responders may have done, for all we know).
      I’d just like to see some prudence before blanket condemnations of a treasured resource and those that need it.

    2. Ben, your story reminded me of an incident at NUHS back when I attended in the 80’s. It was customary when NU had the invitational basketball tourniment, to have host families for the visting teams players to stay while they were in town. so we had a lot of black players from visiting schools in town for a couple of days. I remember walking back to the parking lot after seeing a game, turning around to see 4 black kids being chased by numberous white kids with baseball bats and chains in hand shouting racial slurs. (luckily they got away)These kids were your average high school kids that most wouldn’t suspect them of such things. In fact one of those kids(now a local business owner who shall remain nameless) I had known from Little league. I think I was so shocked at the time that I will never forget it and I will not patronize this persons business ever because of it. I had recently learned that this person’s son also has the same attiude as his father and thus is most likely growing up to become a bigot himself. ( no doubt handed down from generation to generation to generation)Racism and bigoty lie Hidden in many people but I too believe it in the minority of the great citizens of our community.

  14. The areas around the skate park and disc golf course is a mess most of the time. We need patrol folks managing this and the other parks. There is a lot of drugs and drinking going on at the parks… read the daily Police Blotter in The Union to see a small part of what takes place.

  15. Racism is a symptom of a sick community and must be treated as an illness to end it.

    I’ve written several times on this blog about teen prostitution in the Safeway parking lot of Grass Valley, looking for support to address the problem but so far no takers. I’ve also looked for support to start a positive tickets program which is a proven constructive solution to disorderly youth.

    These problems won’t respond to old worn out and already failed solutions. It can be done. I’m ready to go. My email is

  16. Wasn’t it just a few years ago, a young man was nearly killed when he had his head bashed in by a skateboard while he was trying to stop a fight at the skate park?

  17. J,
    I can accept your point, it is a very one sided story so far. I can only speak for myself and find it hard to believe that a birthday party would instigated an altercation at a park they were visiting but could be wrong.

    1. +1
      If the incident was spurred on solely by a peoples presence in the park, then we’re at another level of criminality. If epitaphs are slung in the heat of an argument, that is still offensive, but closer to what most of us have experienced in sports, etc. If the only real evidence is the kids report to engage the family in that argument AND we have no perspective or police report of investigation, then I just proceed with caution (and give the benefit of doubt to ALL parties while reserving judgement).

      These are just really serious allegation, and I would assume that law enforcement did their job. I know there was a healthy showing of multiple LE vehicles there the morning of Saturday the 18th (including the dirt bike & ‘undercover’ SUV) – maybe in response to this.

      1. haha – darn the no edit – should read epithets not epitaphs!
        gotta start proofing my streams o’ rant!

  18. Speaking of “standing up” and despicable, the Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting about the anti-immigrant law that passed in Georgia and what big business didn’t count on–since it was painfully clear Georgia didn’t want migrant workers: they LEFT. Leaving million$ of dollars of blueberries, melon, soy, peaches soon on the ground. They aren’t wanted dontcha know…so they picked up their birthday party gear and bounced. Can’t say I blame em. Kate

  19. Obviously a greater police presence is needed at Condon, as well as other city parks, but in small towns such as Grass Valley and Nevada City, where is the funding needed coming from? The recent incident in Grass Valley of a huge fight in a residential area downtown caused by teenagers jumping on cars and culminating in stabbings is more evidence the peace is not being kept adequately whatever the skincolor of those involved or instigating factors. Grass Valley needs practical help in this area, and that takes money.

    1. In the long run it will never work to rely more and more on police. This is not only because of the cost but because police address just the symptoms of the problem. A focus on the cause is necessary. Fortunately cause focused solutions require little money but unfortunately they require a commitment and understanding that is largely absent today.

      For example try putting yourself in the shoes of one of these ruffians. Nothing is working out for you with bad friends, drugs, no future, no job etc., and you are angry and ignorant. Would you wish the police to show up at your door to take you to jail next or a realistic opportunity to pull things together?

      1. I’m not so sure about the jail thing anymore–did you see the guy who robbed a bank for a buck so he could get medical care in jail ? It happened just yesterday in New Jersey…Kate

      2. The costs for incarceration are staggering not only from a cost perspective but from the damage it does to the incarcerated. Crime is a form of mental illness. I’m not saying to not lock up the criminals and to protect society. I am saying it is time for us to wake up as a society and stop throwing ignorant and ineffective solutions at our problems.

        I spent quite a bit of time trying to build a consensus to implement the program that has shown to produce a 40% drop in crime. I found merchants who donated premiums and offered to fund the initial costs (which are quite low). No takers. It didn’t fit with the police attitudes so I sought support from some of the rougher kids at Earl Jamison and finally some merchants. Everyone seemed to favor punishment or revenge over bridge building. Anyone interested out there?

      3. I agree with you Greg, police patrols are only stop-gap. They are akin to a vigilante groups, they take care of the immediate problem but they are not sustainable in the long run.

        I just checked out the Positive Tickets website and it looks like a real winner. Send me an email so we can talk about this some more. Thanks.

  20. A volunteer citizens’ patrol through the police dept would work the best. I know they have this down in Rocklin and it is staffed with mostly retired people. They patrol with nothing more than a flashlight and a police radio to call for a police unit if they see something suspicious. Relatively low start up costs, gets retired people out and about with good community involvement. They could patrol the parks and problem areas with more frequency. Just a thought.

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