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Photo by Tom Angel

It was the kind of idea that gets hatched in a tavern and then steadily builds momentum before fizzling at the last minute. But in this case, an assorted collection of locals—about two dozen or so—pulled off a silent and peaceful protest of Councilmember Steve Bertagna’s now infamous public use of the word "jewed" at an Aug. 6 Chico City Council meeting. To register their disgust with what they saw as the councilman’s poor choice of words, organizers recruited like-minded individuals who agreed to attend this week’s council meeting and, acting on cue, don Groucho Marx disguises soon after the meeting started. Many consider Marx, a Jew, one of the comedic geniuses of the 20th century. The protest made for a surreal atmosphere, as the council waded through mundane items as if nothing was unusual. After about a half-hour, the protestors quietly rose and left the chambers. For his part, Bertagna looked uncomfortable and said nothing during the protest, but he did seem to detect a connection between the masks and his gaffe. Afterward he told a television reporter that in his mind the matter was history, that he’d made his apology and that the protestors’ actions were an affront to Jewish people.