A liberal activist says he was the victim of "blatant racism" while attending a San Francisco fundraiser for Democrat Josh Harder, a frontrunner to be the party's candidate in one of the California districts being targeted in 2018.
Anthony Castillo, a resident of the district Harder is running to represent, says he drove two hours up to San Francisco late last month with the intention of learning more about Harder but was instead "silenced by a room full of white people."
Castillo says the largest man in the room was openly hostile to him and when he complained about the aggression to the event's hostess he was grabbed by the arm and thrown out of the house.
"It seemed unbelievable that I—a lifelong resident of CA10, a dedicated community organizer and volunteer, a proud member of our vibrant Hispanic community—was silenced by a room full of white people who allowed the largest white man in the room to harass and intimidate me," Castillo said in a Facebook post.
"These rich, white, ostensibly concerned Democrats watched as I was dragged from the event by its host, who continued to humiliate and accost me, even as I tried to leave," he said.
Castillo declined to disclose either the name of the hostess or the man who he says was hostile to him. He told the Washington Free Beacon that all he wants is "an acknowledgment and apology."
Castillo says the entire crowd targeted him after he attempted to ask Harder questions at the "Cocktails and Conversation" event and he was told he would have to wait for a question-and-answer session.
Here is part of Castillo's account, which was posted to Facebook:
As I waited my turn, I listened quietly to the next speaker while taking notes on my phone. From the corner of my eye, I could see the man who had yelled so belligerently walk slowly forward, until he was just inches away from my face. I looked up to see this man staring at me with open hostility, his blue eyes wide and unblinking, his mouth slightly open.
I asked him again to please stop, and was taken aback when the crowd of almost entirely wealthy, white Democrats, shushed me again. This man was well over 6 feet and well over 200lbs, the biggest guy there, by far—and he was right in my face, openly and aggressively harassing me.
"I’m not staring at you," he taunted. More white faces whipped around to look at me, and more voices yelled for me to be quiet. One woman who identified herself as the owner of the house, asked me repeatedly to calm down as if I were the threat in this situation.
I asked her to ask the big white guy to stop trying to intimidate me. The crowd began shouting and yelling at me, as if I had threatened this man, as if I were at fault for his behavior. The hostess came up to me from behind and [seized] me by the arm and threw me out of the house.
As Castillo was exiting the property, he says he was followed by the event hostess, who repeatedly screamed, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO I AM! I RAISE MONEY FOR MUSLIM WOMEN!"
Castillo explained that this is not the first time he had heard the "I am not a racist because I have helped minorities before" defense.
"Although I don’t know her, I’ve heard her message many times before, as has every person of color: I’m not being racist toward you, I am not a racist because I have helped minorities before," Castillo said. "As if that could possibly excuse her treatment of me."
Castillo said he had not experienced such "blatant racism" in over a decade, and that Harder's inaction made clear he was "nothing more than a useless, silent bystander who allowed the rich and powerful to dominate and dictate how events would unfold."
"As a dark-skinned Latino, I have experienced the full spectrum of racism over the course of my life, but I have not endured such open hostility, such blatant racism—to the point where I felt unsafe—in over a decade," Castillo said.
"That night I learned who Josh Harder was, and about his potential to stand up for CA10 against the rich and powerful in Washington," he said. "If you can’t speak up for what’s right when you are among friends, you are not going to do it in Congress."
Castillo says that he anticipates Harder's campaign will attempt to blame him for the incident.
"Not sure how this will play out," Castillo said. "My guess is that Harder's campaign will blame me, which is in no way acceptable."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not respond to a request for comment. It has listed California's 10th Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Jeff Denham, as one it hopes to flip in 2018.
Attempts to reach the Harder campaign were also unsuccessful.
Harder, a 30-year-old venture capitalist, has hired as campaign manager Josh Lord, who also managed the unsuccessful 2016 attempt by Democrats to unseat Denham.
Castillo says he is still undecided on whom he will support to unseat Denham, a goal he says his district "desperately needs" to achieve.