By The Blue Alaskan
Attorney Mike Schechter served as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alaska, representing Anchorage and Fairbanks International Airports and now is now “Of Counsel” for the law firm Ashburn & Mason.
For reasons which weren’t immediately clear, Schechter was targeted on Wednesday by alt-right blog and longtime Alaska GOP mouthpiece Must Read Alaska. Downing, who has a personal friendship with embattled Eagle River assemblywoman Jamie Allard, has in recent days, defended the assembly member’s right to “freedom of speech,” and has decried “cancel culture” even as the Must Read Alaska Facebook page repeatedly bans readers from its Facebook page while misspelling Mr. Schechter’s name incorrectly across her blog post.
Earlier this week, Allard was removed from the Alaska Human Rights Commission by governor Michael Dunleavy after she posted controversial comments on social media about Nazi license plates. The assemblywoman says that she believes in “freedom of speech” but curiously deletes comments and posts made by constituents that she doesn’t agree with.
Schechter presented testimony this past Tuesday in front of the Anchorage assembly and it appears that his testimony drew the ire of Suzanne Downing after Schechter told the assembly that Allard “defended “3rdReich” and “Fuhrer” license plates as innocent, non-hateful, and unrelated to Nazism and she did so after being presented with evidence that there could not possibly be a reasonable non-Nazi justification.”
Schechter, who clearly has a first-amendment right to share his thoughts, told the assembly that they “should take immediate action to remove Ms. Allard as the Assembly’s liaison to the National League of Cities, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, and the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation.”
Downing, who called Schechter’s comments, “shocking,” in her blog post, whipped her non-lawyer readers into a frenzy with some calling for the boycott of his employer Ashburn & Mason.
Perhaps more shocking than Downing’s spin on Schechter’s right to exercise his freedom of speech, is that Allard’s supporters in the assembly chambers — largely from the Facebook group ‘Save Anchorage’ — shouted down Mr. Schechter and impeded his ability to complete his testimony in addition to bringing the proceedings to a grinding halt.
In an email sent to assembly members later in the evening — after Mr. Schechter had been shouted down — and which has been obtained by the Blue Alaskan, Schechter wrote that Allard’s apology “is not an apology; it is a self-serving statement that gives the pretense of apology but only serves to transfer blame to the people who were wronged by the person’s actions.”
I reached out to Mr. Schechter and asked if he knew why Suzanne Downing might have targeted him for her blog post. In an emailed statement he told me:
“I’m not inclined to speculate about how Suzanne Downing arrives at her particular formula for her website. But it does appear she is blasting me for exercising my First Amendment right to express my opinion to the Assembly and her supporters are encouraging people to picket my workplace. That is the very definition of the cancel culture that Downing so often decries. I stand by what I said last night and what I emailed to the Assembly.”
You can read Mr. Schechter’s email to the Anchorage Assembly and his testimony below.
From: Mike Schechter
Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2021 9:36 PM
Mayor Quinn-Davidson and Assembly Members:
I am following-up on my testimony earlier tonight because I want to be clear about several issues related to Allard’s reprehensible behavior.
First, because of the audience disruptions, I was unable to make a final point about Allard’s so-called apology at the beginning of the meeting. I only heard it second-hand, but given Allard’s record, I don’t have any reason to believe she said otherwise. My understanding is that she said “my apologies if this came across as offensive.” That is not an apology; it is a self-serving statement that gives the pretense of apology but only serves to transfer blame to the people who were wronged by the person’s actions. I recognize that apologies are hard. A great resource for better understanding the concept of apology ishttps://sorrywatch.com/, particularly the six steps to a good apology.
Second, I understand the concern about not naming individual members during audience participation, but the particulars of Member Allard’s conduct do not allow for “speaking to the body or speaking to the chair” as Assemblymember Constant requested during his point of order.
That point would have been more salient if I was testifying on a specific piece of legislation. Speaking in generalities in this instance, however, would not reasonably allow me to precisely and directly communicate the issue. And we should not be proceeding on the basis of “we all know who and what he’s talking about.” Moreover, as I pointed out during testimony, a member of the public testifying during audience participation is not subject to the same constraints as a member of the Assembly. I know this not only as an attorney with extensive municipal law experience, but also as a citizen who reviewed Chairman Rivera’s commendable powerpoint on meeting decorum before testifying.
Finally, in case you could not hear my comments over the pitiable display from the folks screaming in the audience, here they are:
Testimony of Mr. Michael Schecter
Thank you Chair Rivera. My name is Michael Schechter and I am an Anchorage citizen. Over this past weekend, a member of the Assembly used social media to abusively gaslight Anchorage citizens about Nazi symbology and ideology. Specifically, she defended “3rdReich” and “Fuhrer” license plates as innocent, non-hateful, and unrelated to Nazism and she did so after being presented with evidence that there could not possibly be a reasonable non-Nazi justification.
Either out of willful ignorance, hateful malice, or both, this member chose to make excuses rather than confront the reality of a Nazi supporter in her own community. Nazism was a scourge upon this earth that killed 20 million people in Europe, including 6 million Jews, members of my family among them. Over 16 million Americans, including my grandfather, fought against fascism and Nazism in WWII and more than a million of them were killed or injured. Jamie Allard is a disgrace to their memory and a disgrace to the uniform she wore, as well as a disgrace to this Assembly and our City.
Unfortunately, that does not bring us to the end of Ms. Allard’s actions of the last few days. After getting negative feedback on her ignorant and baseless Nazi apologism, Ms. Allard appears to have deleted individual comments and then her entire official assembly Facebook page because she did not like what she was hearing from constituents. That in itself is an anti-democratic act of political cowardice, surely worthy of our collective opprobrium.
At this point in history, there cannot be good faith dialogue with Nazis, Nazi sympathizers, or Nazi apologists. I urge every member of this Assembly and the Administration to ignore and reject all legislation advanced by Member Allard because upstanding Americans have no reason to engage with Nazis or their apologists. She should also be removed from any committee assignments for the same reason.
I don’t request that lightly, but the Assembly must take steps to protect its legislative process and the citizens from someone who will act out of ignorance and malice. Similarly, this Assembly should not give voice to a member who gaslights constituents in order to make excuses for Nazis, nor should this Assembly let that member speak for all of you. Accordingly, the assembly should take immediate action to remove Ms. Allard as the Assembly’s liaison to the National League of Cities, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, and the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation.
This is surely not enough and I recognize that we may be saddled with Ms. Allard’s blight upon our city until her next election.
Thank you for your time and diligent service to Anchorage.