Yesterday social media in Salem became abuzz with the news that a call had been made for City Councilor Daniel Benjamin to resign after he posted a racially charged video on Facebook that shows Black Lives Matter protesters being struck by speeding cars.
Here's the KATU story that set off the uproar. (It should play after a brief ad.)
Now there's a Facebook page demanding the immediate resignation of Benjamin.
When I signed on this morning, 17 people said they planned to go to the Monday, November 28 meeting of the Salem City Council to urge that this happens. Currently 69 people say they're going to attend the meeting. Hopefully the number will grow even further.
I have my own history with Daniel Benjamin.
In May 2014 I wrote "Salem's Daniel Benjamin and his domestic violence arrest." Salem's daily newspaper, the Statesman Journal, didn't report this information until just before the May primary election where City Council races almost always are decided, even though they knew about Benjamin's 1992 arrest weeks before.
But our alternative paper, Salem Weekly, did do a good job of informing citizens about Benjamin's criminal history. I shared the Salem Weekly reporting in "Daniel Benjamin threw a girl into a dumpster before hitting her." This is what the arresting officer said about the incident. See:
Download Gresham-Police-Report Daniel Benjamin
Download Daniel Benjamin court documents 1993
On 12-31-92 at 1915 hrs., I was at 1132 N.E. 17th on a dispatched call. As I left the apt. of the call, Margaret Lynch told me that a guy was beating up his girlfriend on the opposite end of the building. Margaret said that the guy had put the girl into a trash can but that he was now hitting her again.
I went to the south-east end of the parking lot and heard a woman screaming. I radioed for cover. I saw the suspect Daniel Benjamin, on top of the victim Karin Dianich. Daniel was pushing Karin's face into the snow and punching her in the back and ribs. I struck Daniel on the upper back just below his right shoulder blade with my flashlight and then forced him to the ground. I handcuffed Daniel and held him there until Officer Durbin and Officer Mitchell arrived to assist. I contacted Karin and took her statement. She had a swollen lower lip.
After Benjamin unfortunately was elected to the City Council with an underwhelming 752 votes (total, not the margin), someone gave me additional information about Benjamin's criminal past: public records relating to another domestic violence arrest in 1996.
This is the report of the arresting officer in that case. I've put in the names of the victim, Chase, and the attacker, Benjamin, because the report is more personal this way, rather than using the officer's "CO" for Chase and "A1" for Benjamin. See:
Download Daniel Benjamin 1996 arrest record
Chase states that while she slept at home, Benjamin, her live-in boyfriend, came home drunk and began causing a loud disturbance. When Chase told Benjamin to leave or be quiet, Benjamin struck Chase with a closed left fist to Chase's right eye. I observed swelling and bruising under Chase's eyes 1 hour after the assault. I found Benjamin in the apartment and arrested him. I read Miranda to Benjamin. Benjamin said he hit Chase once in self-defense as Chase was beating him. Benjamin had no marks of physical assault upon him. Benjamin lodged MCDC [Multnomah County Detention Center]. Chase willing to prosecute.
Why didn't I share this information before?
Well, I believed Daniel Benjamin when he told me in June 2014 that he was a changed man. We met at a downtown Salem coffeehouse after I'd emailed him with questions about his second domestic violence arrest following my receipt of the records relating to his 1996 attack on Chase.
Daniel, thanks for being open to answering some questions. Here they are. As background I’ve attached a document about your 1996 arrest for domestic assault.
(1) At the May City Council work session, you told me that you were a changed man after getting counseling following your 1992 domestic violence arrest for causing physical injury to Karin Dianich. However, in 1996 you were arrested for causing physical injury to another woman, Jamie Ann Chase.
Please explain. I’m confused about your “changed man” statement. Obviously you hadn’t done enough changing by 1996. Did you get further counseling after the 1996 arrest? Feel free to share any thoughts about this. I’ll share them unedited if I write a blog post about this subject.
(2) Is there anything in the arrest report that you disagree with? The arresting officer describes what Jamie Chase and you told him. If you disagree with that description on page 2, please let me know what you consider to be inaccurate.
Understand: if you weren’t a just-elected city councilor who had assured the Statesman Journal that there are no “skeletons in your closet” I wouldn’t be pursuing this. I think the public has a right to know about the 1992 and 1996 domestic violence arrests since what you have said, and not said, about this bears on your credibility as a public servant.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Benjamin replied that he wanted to talk in person with me, rather than answer my questions in writing. Hence, our coffeehouse talk. I didn't take notes of the meeting, but I recall that Benjamin was contrite and said that if I wrote about his 1996 domestic violence arrest, this would cause distress to his wife.
I ended up deciding not to publicize the 1996 arrest records, even though it bothered me -- a lot -- that just three years after he got counseling for his domestic violence and drinking problems, Benjamin got drunk and punched his new girlfriend in the eye.
Maybe this was a mistake, but I believe in second chances. Well, also third chances, because Benjamin blew his second chance when he was arrested another time for domestic violence. I hoped that Benjamin had learned that he needed to treat other people, including women, non-violently.
But when I heard about the KATU story, and Benjamin's irritating response to it, I decided that people needed to have the full story about Daniel Benjamin's criminal past.
Salem Mayor Anna M. Peterson said she's horrified by the video.
"It actually made my stomach churn when I could see people actually being mowed down on purpose," Peterson said.
She told KATU she talked with Benjamin Monday afternoon.
"I told him that I was disappointed and shocked at the video and I suggested that he take it down," Peterson said. "We're striving hard to let people in the community know that the city of Salem stands firmly beside the civil rights of every person in this city."
Benjamin told a KATU reporter off-camera the post was on his personal Facebook page and although it was public, anyone who doesn't like it can unfriend him.
He also said it has nothing to do with race and, "To infer I'm a racist is actually racist."