Almost 200 people showed up at Dixon City Hall on Tuesday night to call for the resignation of Vice Mayor Ted Hickman, who has been the subject of escalating outrage since a controversial column calling for a Straight Pride American Month and referring to gay men as “faries” went viral.
“We are different from them…. We work, have families (and babies we make) enjoy and love the company (and marriage) of the opposite sex and don’t flaunt our differences dressing up like faries (sic) and prancing by the thousands in a parade in nearby San Francisco to be televised all over the world,” he wrote in the June 29 column.
The small group of protesters grew larger as the evening progressed and the weather cooled. There was almost a party-like atmosphere among the LGBT supporters who sat in the grass, watching the meeting on a giant television set up in front of City Hall for those who couldn't fit into the overflowing council chambers.
Will Eukel, 27, said he drove 43 miles from Martinez to support his friends in the LGBT community. “Because making fun of them in this manner basically is like attacking them and I don’t like it when my friends are attacked, especially by a person in a position of power,” he said before the meeting.
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Speakers inside the council chambers repeatedly asked Hickman to resign or for the council to strip Hickman of the title of vice mayor and to remove him from city committees.
"It’s no question that Mr. Hickman’s words are grossly out of line and out of touch, and dare I say unamerican,” Julian Cuevas told the council. “Show your constituents that this body doesn’t cherry pick who they represent, but that you represent everyone, including those in the LGBT community.”
Ian Arnold asked the council to donate to the LGBT club at the high school. “I agree that he had the right to write that, but the fact he used his title should call for the Rules Committee to censure him."
Councilman Scott Pederson asked the city attorney to set up a special closed session meeting to examine what action, if any, can should be taken against Hickman.
"We have to make sure our community begins to heal from this situation and we can no longer tolerate hate speech," Pederson said.
Hickman, 74, is up for re-election in November, and protesters let him know that they would oppose him if he remained on the council.
“We have tolerated your bad behavior and bad words too long,” said Chelsea Baer, a commissioner on the Parks and Recreation Commission. “Dixon is fed up. Listen to those people out there and look at all these people there. … We will vote Nov. 6 and you will see what will happen and you will not win.”’
Only a few people spoke in support of Hickman, although the councilman spoke briefly before the public comment session began. "If I could rewind time and write the column again I would not use the words sarcastically of vice mayor because I see it might not be acceptable to some,” he said.
He told a Bee reporter earlier this month that the column was just meant to be tongue-in-cheek humor.
Since its June 29 publication in Dixon’s Independent Voice newspaper, the column has brought unprecedented media coverage to the town of about 18,300, known mostly for its annual Lambtown Festival and for being the hometown of country music singer Jon Pardi.
Many speakers spoke of the embarrassment they felt for having such intense media attention focused on Dixon because of the column.
“Dixon is a melting pot that represents people from all over the world,” said Teresa Soria. “If the kitchen is getting too damn hot you need to leave it. If you can’t, won’t or are unable to represent us, you really need to resign. That kind of thinking doesn’t represent the community and doesn’t represent where the world is heading.”
More than a dozen police officers watched over protesters outside and inside the council chambers, but the crowd was peaceful. Mayor Thom Bogue said he was grateful for the crowd’s good behavior. “Thank you very much for the respect you have given,” Bogue said. “You have definitely earned my respect and I thank you for that.”
Hickman was first elected to the Dixon City council in 1968 and served for 12 years. He ran and was elected again in 2014. His term will expire in 2019.