In the nearly two years since former Seaside Councilmember Kayla Jones resigned her council seat and abandoned her campaign for mayor, she’s kept a relatively low profile when it comes to politics and activism.
Her resignation in 2018 came after the mayoral race, after 49 residents filed notice of intent to recall Jones from her council seat. And that came after Jones, the mother of a young daughter, came under fire for expensing thousands of dollars in childcare and travel, some of which – though approved by the city – were later found to be outside of city policy. She paid back the cash that was owed, and paid with at least some of her dignity, and reverted to life as a private citizen.
In Seaside last month, a celebration was in the works – organized by the community and, as Jones describes it, a celebration of Black joy as a radical act. It was the commemoration of Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, and it marks the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.
“It was an opportunity to rejoin my community on a day where I felt safe and welcomed after about two years of adopting a very reclusive lifestyle,” she says. “But being reclusive doesn’t mean I stopped being an activist.
“If Juneteenth for me is about Black joy, then I have an obligation to ensure. that joy for others remains undisturbed,” she adds. “One day of peace. I just wanted one day of peace.”
That day had been peaceful, starting with a march that Friday morning through Seaside, and ending at Bethel, where the Juneteenth celebration was centered. About 300 people attended (several hundred more marched) and there was a bounce house for kids, and music and food and speeches. Jones’ daughter was in the bounce house, near a parking lot entrance to Googie Grill, and Jones and some friends were standing close when Jones noticed things going awry.
According to Jones, a woman later identified as Googie co-owner Jennifer Kadosh had been following Black people through the parking lot and asking them to move their cars. Jones took out her cell phone and recorded what happened next.
On the video, a frustrated Kadosh asks someone to move their car. When Jones tells her the woman doesn’t have to move, Kadosh responds: “I’m the owner of this private property… I hope you understand, we haven’t had any customers. This pandemic has been very difficult.”
Jones tells her she should call the police, Kadosh tells her she already had and they advised her to ask people to move. Nobody was moving. Things deteriorated when Jones told her to stop harassing black people, ending with an expletive.
What’s happened in the days since Jones posted the video to her social media has been doxxing – the dissemination of someone’s address and phone number for purposes of harassment – of not only Jones, but also of her mother, by supporters of Googie Grill. There were ugly, homophobic messages directed at Jones as well. For Kadosh, it’s been a wave of negative reviews left on Googie’s Yelp page, resulting in Yelp putting up an “unusual activity alert” notice on the page and disabling people’s ability to post new reviews.
There’s a backdrop, of course, that involves white people calling the police on Black people who are simply existing – bird watching in Central Park, or waiting for a friend outside a San Francisco high rise, or grilling in a park in Oakland. White people have effectively managed to weaponize police in situations where they feel uncomfortable because a Black person is occupying the same space.
I can’t say that was in Kadosh’s head when she called the police that day. I sent her an email and asked to speak about the situation and called the restaurant twice, but haven’t heard back. The organization Community Before Cops is trying to broker a sit-down between Jones and Kadosh, but so far, she hasn’t responded.
“Our hope is to have people realize that simply calling the police can be an act of violence,” says Community Before Cops member River Navaille. “By attempting to have a conversation, it’s not an attempt to smear her or gain any payback. We want to see change and that’s the restorative justice model we want to work with, and have hard conversations together. We want to hear from her too.”