The finger-pointing came after an altercation occurred at a meeting for the Fremont Alliance for a Hate-Free Community, where a discussion about hate crimes deteriorated into an ugly incident, witnesses said.
While trying to eject 71-year-old Barbara Marques from the monthly gathering Monday, the Rev. Garnet McClure grabbed and shook the chair in which Marques was sitting, attendee Sharon Giottonini said.
McClure, a female pastor at Fremont Congregational Church, reacted after Marques said the 2002 slaying of transgender teen Gwen Araujo might not be a hate crime, several witnesses said.
A scuffle ensued and McClure continued to pull on Marques' chair, said Giottonini, a member of the alliance and the East Bay Coalition for Border Security, a Fremont anti-illegal-immigration group.
Giottonini and other coalition members at the meeting said they were there as Fremont residents and weren't necessarily speaking for their organization.
Meanwhile, the chaotic scene only halted when the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, president of the alliance, hastily adjourned the meeting.
McClure could not be reached for comment about the incident.
Spencer, also pastor of Niles Congregational Church, this week wrote a letter to The Argus apologizing for the meeting's "noisy quarrel."
When asked about McClure's possible involvement, Spencer said he would not comment about specific details of the incident.
He said: "Some things were said about (Araujo's) murder and the murderers that some folks found upsetting."
Marques has filed a police report about the altercation, Fremont police Detective Bill Veteran said.
"I'm very disturbed by what happened at the meeting," alliance member Nina Moore said. "That's not something I ever want to see occuragain. It's not what those of us who joined the group want."
Moore also is president of the Fremont school board.
"The (alliance) is dedicated to creating an inclusive community where everyone belongs, and we have to be open to other viewpoints, regardless of whether you find someone's opinions offensive," Moore said, adding that she was speaking solely as an individual not as a school trustee. "People have the right to express themselves."
Among the alliance meeting's dozen attendees were four members of the East Bay Coalition for Border Security. Some coalition members also have joined the Fremont branch of the Minutemen, a national group opposing illegal immigration.
Giottonini and other coalition members said that Monday's incident is part of a pattern in Fremont where their free-speech rights aren't as protected by the community as other groups.
"I'd hate to think what would happen to one of our members had they behaved like that," she said.
Coalition member Mike Jones of Fremont, attending the meeting to gain more knowledge about the community, said, "The only way I'm going to learn about different groups is to hear their stories."
However, Spencer says he is skeptical.
"I now question if that was their motive," Spencer said. "Based on some of the things they said, it didn't sound as if they were interested in the mission of our organization."
Despite the incident, the alliance's monthly meeting will be held as scheduled April 16 in its usual spot, Fremont Congregational Church in the Glenmoor neighborhood.
Staff writer Chris De Benedetti covers Fremont issues. Contact him at (510) 353-7002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.