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San Bruno Muslims protest mayor over denial request during Ramadan

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SAN BRUNOFor weeks, San Bruno’s Palestinian American residents and allies have rallied outside city hall, calling for a Gaza ceasefire.

On Thursday, however, the protest was aimed at San Bruno Mayor Rico Medina.

The protestors say they have been requesting a meeting with Medina and City Manager Alex McIntyre since last week, when the Council on American Islamic Relations sent the city a letter calling for an apology.

They say a group of eight to 10 Muslim residents had attended a March 12 city council meeting, and brought some pizza and water to the lobby of the senior center building where the meetings are held, in order to break their Ramadan fast.

The Muslim residents say the lobby has a café and tables. They say when they started to eat, they were confronted by police and the police chief told them they had to go outside to the parking lot where the city had erected tents.

“This city is our city. And we feel like it’s important that we’re heard, that we’re given an opportunity to explain why it was offensive to us and how we can move past this as a community,” said Kamilah Albahri, a San Bruno Palestinian American resident.

“I think they made this into a bigger problem than it needed to be. All they needed to do was sincerely apologize and commit to doing better,” said Musa Tariq, the CAIR SF Bay Area policy coordinator.

McIntyre sent KTVU an email Thursday that stated, “The city does not have a ban on individuals eating in the lobby space outside council meetings. As a practice, however, groups are not allowed to reserve any portion of the Senior Center.”

“The City did its best, under a very short deadline, to set up tents and create an eating area outside the Council chambers (where the city’s business is conducted) to accommodate their request,” McIntyre’s statement said.

Some people at the rally Thursday said the city needs to receive cultural training.

“What they lacked was basic courtesy and recognizing that these are their citizens, and they’re asking for accommodations,” said Hatem Bazian, a lecturer with the UC Berkeley Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures Department, who spoke at the rally, “I would tell them here’s our basic facts about the religious practices that the community has.”

McIntyre stated in the email that the additional police were present because meetings had become heated, and said one staff member was threatened after the March 12th meeting.

“In fact, one city staff member was harassed and subjected to threats by some of those audience members in the parking lot after the meeting. The added police staff at San Bruno are there to protect citizens, city staff, and residents,” McIntyre’s email stated.

The protestors say they were sad to hear that, and sent out emails to their members trying to determine who might have been the harasser. They said they could not find anyone in their group making such threats and offered to meet with the staff to foster dialogue and assure them the group was peaceful.

“We wanted to take accountability as a community, but we have no idea who did it,” Albahri said.

The city manager said there are plans to meet with the Muslim residents and address their concerns.

“The Mayor and staff will meet with some of the residents who have requested a meeting to find a path forward. The meeting has not yet been scheduled,” McIntyre wrote.

KTVU called and emailed the mayor and members of the city council, but received no replies Thursday night.

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