Eric Osterberg, assistant to the city manager of Klamath Falls and staff lead for the city’s equity task force, was set to deliver a final report to the city council about its findings on racial equality when he was threatened with stoning by a man wielding a rock about the size of his hand.
“I could tell something was bugging him,” Osterberg told the Herald and News, who said the man asked him, “Oh, so you think we are all racist? You think you are the second coming of Christ?” According to Osterberg, the man then accused him of spreading HIV and AIDS, saying he was blasphemous for being a Black gay man.
“You are a sinner and you need to be stoned. That is why I brought this stone,” the man reportedly said.
The man with the rock was then escorted out of the building by Klamath Falls police chief Robert Dentinger; however, he was released and sent home rather than being arrested. “As of (Monday) night there was not enough information to arrest him,” Dentinger said. “But as things change, we are going to have to talk to him.”
The purpose of Klamath Falls’ equity task force was to gather information regarding systemic racism and its economic impact on the community. Osterberg began his presentation by informing his colleagues about what had just occurred and how it underscored the importance of the work that is being done by the task force. “I just want to start the meeting off by pointing to you that just having a simple conversation about racism in our community is gaining that level of violence, that threat of violence,” he said.
The incident left Osterberg shaken. “I felt like I didn’t do my presentation tonight justice because I was so frazzled and put on edge by what had happened right before,” he said. “I think this proves that there is such a violent reaction to the idea that there is even racism in the community. That people are being threatened by violence in order to try and silence them. And I think that is pretty damning of the community.”
Klamath Falls mayor Carol Westfall shared Osterberg’s feelings on the incident. “It basically shows us what is out there, and our work towards equity and doing away with this kind of conflict is what we are working towards,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but we do have freedom of speech and people on the internet are saying all sorts of stuff ... I think it’s just unfortunate but we definitely need to educate people and keep moving forward.”
Osterberg is set to step down from his role in Klamath Falls soon to take over the city manager role in Ferguson, Missouri.