San Jose council member granted restraining order against transphobic Instagramer

Author: Christopher Wiggins

An elected official in California has been temporarily shielded from attacks by a right-wing extremist. San Jose City Councilmember Peter Ortiz recently obtained a restraining order against Robert Saenz, the owner of a popular Instagram page called “ESSJ Times.”

The “ESSJ Times” Instagram account, with more than 66,000 followers, features content about crime and public safety in San Jose. Recently, Saenz began to obsessively post transphobic content, including controversial material regarding medical treatment for transgender children. He used the term “groomer” in these posts, a term that falsely associates legitimate medical care for transgender youth with child abuse and fosters violence against the LGBTQ+ community. The account also spread propaganda from the extremist group Gays Against Groomers.

According to The Mercury News, the situation escalated on December 17, when Saenz shared a photo of Ortiz with the words “brown puppet” superimposed over the councilmember’s face. This post accused Ortiz and his colleague Omar Torres, both of Latinx, of failing to represent the Latinx or Mexican community. It particularly highlighted their alleged stance on issues related to the treatment of children.

Ortiz filed for the restraining order on December 20, following another post on December 13 that included disturbing content. This post featured a video with images suggesting transgender medical treatment leads to inappropriate sexual encounters, alongside pictures of Ortiz, his girlfriend, and Torres.

Ortiz and Torres have been vocal supporters of the LGBTQ+ community in San Jose. In October, the City Council, including Ortiz and Torres, unanimously passed a resolution supporting transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals. This resolution countered a local “parental rights” group that opposed using LGBTQ-themed school materials.

In his filing with the court, Ortiz expressed concern over the safety of himself, his girlfriend, and his family due to Saenz’s posts. He drew parallels to an incident in 2016 in Washington, D.C., where a conspiracy theory led to a dangerous situation involving an armed individual who shot a semi-automatic assault rifle into a restaurant called Comet Ping Pong. Ortiz said he feared a similar situation could arise from Saenz’s inflammatory posts.

The court granted the restraining order December 21. It bars Saenz from making further defamatory statements about Ortiz and his girlfriend and approaching the council member’s girlfriend. However, the court found the request to extend protection to the schools of Ortiz’s girlfriend’s children unenforceable due to vagueness.

Saenz responded by accusing Ortiz of infringing on his First Amendment rights and press freedoms. He claimed to feel “bullied” by the council member’s actions. The restraining order is set to be reviewed at a hearing January 23.

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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