City Hall

Why Dallas Councilman Lee Kleinman Keeps Losing His Cool at the Mention of "Genocide"

Dallas cops act like terrorists in black communities, at least according to the gadfly speaking to City Council on a recent Wednesday. "Realistically, councilmen and councilwomen, this has reached genocidal proportions," the man added.

Councilman Lee Kleinman decided to let that one go. The gadfly pressed on.

"For us in the black community, when we see a Dallas police officer in a blue uniform with a badge and a gun, that's when we want to cross the street," the next speaker told the City Council. Like others who show up for the regular Wednesday open mic sessions, the speaker punctuated his talk with wild, seemingly unfounded accusations. Dallas cops are white supremacists, he said, the grandsons of Ku-Klux Klan members, and their bosses are encouraging them to kill black men. "Each one of you on City Council are responsible, because you are their bosses," he said. "You have blood on your hands. You have committed genocide against the black community."

This Kleinman could not abide.

"I take direct offense at being called genocidal," Kleinman shot back at the speaker. "Being Jewish and having my people endured 6 million genocidal murders ..."

The man, having finished his speech, was now without a microphone. Regardless, he yelled at Kleinman from the audience.

"I am talking now, and you can sit down," Kleinman interrupted. "Please remove him. There is no comparison ... there is no comparison to what is going on."

Elected to the council last year, Kleinman, a former park board member from North Dallas, has revealed a not especially long fuse during his brief tenure. In March, as Dallas was set to vote on a plastic bag ban, Kleinman did an amazing flip-flop from supporting the ban to going against it. In a speech that seemed like a giant foam middle finger to his colleagues, he explained that he wasn't concerned about litter because that only affected other districts, but not his own North Dallas district.

"Why should I care if, you know, the councilmembers don't care that Orange Crush trash is in her district. I would personally probably stay more focused on my own district, which does not have the same trash problems as others," he said at the time. He added that plastic bags are also necessary to clean up dog poop, "especially in parts of like Oak Cliff where there are tons of loose dogs. Loose dogs are not my problem in my part of the city."

Kleinman later apologized and told the News that he was merely trying to tweak fellow Councilwoman Monica Alonzo, because he was mad at her about an unrelated fight over a concrete-crushing facility.

But it's the casual throwing around of the word "genocide" that really winds him up. The gadfly-directed outburst, on June 2, wasn't the first time Kleinman lost his temper during open mic session over a genocide reference. In December, he directed a similar rebuke to an anti-fluoride speaker who said Nazis used fluoride to brainwash prisoners in concentration camps.

I called Kleinman to ask him about it; as a fellow Jew, I'd heard the rants and found odd how territorial he seemed over the word "genocide." He acknowledged losing his temper, and said that was just the reaction the gadflies were hoping to provoke. Still, he said, "genocide" has a specific and horrific meaning, and it's not fair toss the term around, or to make casual comparisons to the Holocaust, whether while debating fluoride, police violence or even slavery.

"Not only is just patently offensive, to any council member, the comparison of what happened in the Jewish genocide, in the genocide that happened in Rwanda, and the genocide that happened in the Balkans, I mean that's a whole different deal, " Kleinman told me. "I'm not even sure I want to have this published, but you know, as shitty as slavery was to the Africans that were brought over here, it wasn't genocide, it was slavery. It was a different deal, and I don't know how to say that in a positive way or whatever. But I mean, yeah, I know that was a bad deal. But the plan there was not systematic extermination of a race. ... The plan there was systematic slavery of the race. I'm not saying that's any better, but I just find it offensive, and I have to stand up to that. That's why I kind of mouth off every time people try to throw that term out there."

The rest of the speaker's points about the police weren't lost on Kleinman. He said the council is definitely concerned about the allegations leveled at the police department, and will look into it.

"I have no problem with what he was asking us to do, and what his concerns were, until he started accusing me and my colleagues of a policy of systematic extermination of young black men."

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn