From The OC Register:
NAHEIM – Indignation reached the steps of City Hall on Monday night when more than 50 people held a candlelight vigil and marched to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce to show their anger at online statements by blogger and political insider Matthew Cunningham.
The vigil stemmed from a Dec. 12 post by Cunningham, a conservative blogger who writes about Anaheim’s civic affairs at anaheimblog.net. Cunningham said Monday that the post originated from him walking past City Hall when he noticed a stuffed teddy bear with its face ripped off. He placed votive (prayer) candles next to the toy and posted pictures of the scene on his blog, one day after another candlelight vigil was held on the anniversary of the fatal Anaheim police-involved shooting of Cesar Cruz in December 2009.
Anaheim residents and others gathered on the steps at Anaheim City Hall for a candlelight vigil sponsored by the the Orange County Labor Federation to protest an incident in which Matthew Cunningham, a local political operative, posted comments and a photo on his blog that critics say were insensitive to Latinos.
Shortly afterward, Cunningham was panned by local activists who said the post demeaned mourning rituals adopted by Latinos. Cunningham said he was unaware of the service for Cruz and didn’t intend to be racially insensitive, given the fact that his wife was born in Mexico and moved to the United States when she was a child.
“The whole point was to satirize how I think liberal interest groups use tragedies to push a political agenda,” said Cunningham, who has since replaced the blog post with an apology.
“I wish I had been aware at the time how this would have been taken the wrong way,” he said. “I really am sorry if it has exacerbated the pain that anyone has felt from losing a child.”
The group assembled at the foot of City Hall before walking together to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce – a site selected because Cunningham critics want the chamber to sever ties with him. The crowd formed a circle, dotted in the dark by the candles that each demonstrator held. Cesar Cruz’s mother, Theresa Smith, was among those holding a sign with photos of him. When the group finished singing “Silent Night” to the empty-looking office building, Smith spoke to the somber bunch.
“For him to post that photo with the candle of the Virgin (Guadalupe) on the 12th,on her day, is disgusting,” Smith said. Dec. 12 is a Catholic day of celebration for Our Lady of Guadalupe, the title given to the Virgin Mary in Mexico.
Julio Perez, executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation said Cunningham often says contentious things, but involving faith crossed the line.
“I can take personal attacks or disagreements but once you attack a culture and people’s way of mourning, it shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Cunningham, president of Pacific Strategies, said he’s already paid for what he called an “unintentional mistake.” He resigned last week from the county Parks Commission amid pressure from local labor leaders calling for his removal.
One of his clients, the Orange County Transportation Authority, has temporarily suspended a yearlong $48,775 contract that started in September and that called on Cunningham’s political-consulting company to gather feedback on the future of the region’s transportation needs from unelected but influential local leaders, said agency spokesman Joel Zlotnik. That deal will be re-evaluated at a later date, he said.
A separate $50,000 contract that required Cunningham to report back to the OCTA any transportation issues discussed by city councils and other government agencies over the past year is set to expire on Dec. 31.
In each case, the contracts were put through competitive bids with Pacific Strategies receiving the highest ratings, Zlotnik said.
However, officials with the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce said Monday they will continue to retain Cunningham’s services. Chamber officials declined to say how much Cunningham is paid or the nature of his work, but said that they do not pay him to blog.
“I’ve done a lot of reflecting on that post and I realize how things can be taken the wrong way,” Cunningham said. “It bothers me that some people felt hurt by that, because this was never about hurting or attacking people.”
Demonstrators argued during the vigil that the Chamber of Commerce’s continued relationship with Cunningham is condoning his actions. They held signs and stood quietly, each one waiting for their turn to speak.
Abraham Medina, 25, of Santa Ana addressed the circle.
“We don’t need someone making money off of our pain and our anguish,” Medina said. “He (Cunningham) said he was trying to be funny but our pain and suffering as a community is not funny.”