Gracey Van Der Mark, a woman removed from two school district panels earlier this year after referring to African-Americans as “colored people” in online comments, is now running for a seat on the Ocean View School District board of trustees in Huntington Beach. She made the announcement about her last-minute candidacy over the weekend on the Huntington Beach Community Forum, a Facebook group festering with Surf City trolls, to much support.
“I will focus on ending the deficit spending, focus on student programming and increase morale amongst employees,” Van Der Mark declares in her ballot statement to voters. “I will work on improving the low test scores and the drop in student enrollment.” Tellingly, the candidate didn’t write anything about stopping sharia law indoctrination of children in public schools, an Islamophobic conspiracy theory she also promoted on social media.
School board member Gina Clayton-Tarvin warned constituents about Van Der Mark’s pitch to voters. “Gracey Van Der Mark is not the right fit to hold public office, especially one involving young children,” wrote Clayton-Tarvin on her trustee Facebook page. “I implore all voters of OVSD to join me and the Anti-Defamation League in looking deeply into her questionable past and to firmly reject her at the ballot box this November. Our school district does not need an extremist on its board to disrupt the education of our children. ”
The Weekly requested an interview with Van Der Mark about her candidacy, but received no response.
The controversy over Van Der Mark dates back to last summer when she accompanied an alt-right crew of antisemitic agitators the likes of vlogger Baked Alaska and Augustus Invictus–both scheduled speakers at Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville days later–to disrupt a workshop on white privilege in Santa Monica. Van Der Mark filmed confrontations outside the teach-in and managed to get more footage inside. She uploaded videos from the day on her YouTube channel where the comments section turned into an online RaHoWa.
“This meeting was being ran by the elderly Jewish people who were in there,” Van Der Mark wrote in now-deleted comments. “The colored people were there doing what the elderly Jewish people instructed them to do.” The remarks signaled familiar racist and antisemitic trope where Jews supposedly manipulate racial tensions in the United States to advance against white society. They became cause for contention months later in April shortly after Van Der Mark spoke in support of Huntington Beach city council taking legal action against California’s “sanctuary state” laws for undocumented immigrants.
With her online comments and alt-right associations coming into sharper focus, the Weekly reported that Van Der Mark curated a “Holocaust hoax?” YouTube playlist chalk-full of antisemitic content that’s also since been deleted. She further promoted Islamophobic conspiracy theories on Facebook that the U.S. Department of Education funds a program called Access Islam that serves to religiously indoctrinate public school children. The Anti-Defamation League sent letters to OVSD and Huntington Beach city council requesting they investigate Van Der Mark’s remarks and activities so as to take appropriate action.
On Apr. 24, the OVSD board did just that after a raucous, hours-long meeting. Van Der Mark served on the Measure R Citizens Oversight Committee at OVSD until trustees voted 4-1 to oust her from the appointed post in the wake of the controversy. She also held a similar bond oversight position at the Huntington Beach School City District until the superintendent there quietly removed her in seeking a replacement. Van Der Mark had better luck at Huntington Beach city hall where councilman Patrick Brenden stood by his appointee to the city’s finance commission after conducting an investigation clearing her name.
Before his decision, Van Der Mark offered an entertaining defense of herself to the council during their May 7 meeting. “I consider myself to be a colored person,” she said. “I am not offended by that term.” Van Der Mark is Mexican and Ecuadorian. As for the antisemitic YouTube playlist? Just research!
Whether removed or retained, Van Der Mark touts both her experiences as a commissioner and OVSD citizens oversight committee member in making an appeal to voters. She’s even gone through the trouble of deleting her YouTube channel altogether, although her footage of crashing the white privilege workshop lives on thanks to The Last Stand, a white supremacist channel on the social media site.
“GraceyGate” doesn’t disappear so easily either for local civil rights groups who aren’t buying the PTA version of herself that Van Der Mark is peddling.
“Ms. Van Der Mark’s past racist statements about African-Americans, her abject denial of the Holocaust, as well as her Islamophobic stance show that she is squarely qualified for the title of equal-opportunity bigot, but certainly not school board member,” says Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ greater Los Angeles area chapter. “At a time when biased-driven school bullying is at an all-time high, I hope that voters will send a clear message that bigotry and ignorance have no place in our schools. Our Huntington Beach schools, staff, and children deserve better.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!