Slingshot: A Free Speech Battle in HB Highlights Hypocrisies
Updated: Jun 7
For Shayna Lathus, being "antifa adjacent" during a counter-protest in Huntington Beach two years ago cost her a seat on the city's Citizens Participatory Advisory Board. But did that removal by current mayor Kim Carr violate of her freedom of speech?
The question is at the crux of a recent lawsuit filed against HB by Lathus.
As fellow Democrats, Lathus and Carr both vied for city council seats in 2018. When Carr won election but Lathus fell short, an appointment to serve on the volunteer Citizens Participatory Advisory Board served as a consolation prize. According to court documents, Lathus hoped the position would allow for active engagement in civic affairs while keeping her name relevant for a future bid.
The following year, Lathus' name recognition soared, but for all the wrong reasons.
Amid a xenophobic pushback against California's "Sanctuary State" law, Lathus attended a counter-protest in HB on April 27, 2019. An intermediate science teacher in Santa Ana, she wore a shirt with the pro-immigrant message, "Bridges, Not Walls."
But neither the shirt nor its slogan became the cause of contention afterward. A photo began circulating in HB's right-wing circles showing Lathus standing next to black-clad protesters presumed to be antifa. An online petition by HB resident Craig Frampton led the charge next by calling for her removal from the Citizens Participatory Advisory Board.
The suit alleges that Carr phoned Lathus about the photo and told her to publicly denounce antifa.
Two days after the protest, Lathus addressed the controversy online. "In the statement, she stated that she supports law enforcement officers [and] she also supports immigrants' rights," the suit reads. "She was not aware that people identifying as Antifa would be present at the rally, and she did not engage with people identified as Antifa."
Carr deemed the clarification "not enough" (What? Did she want something ripped from the pages of Andy Ngo's wildly dishonest reporting on antifa?) According to the suit, Carr followed by demanding Lathus' resignation. When that didn't happen, Carr turned to social media to announce the removal of her appointee from the board, a move described as being "fired by tweet."
"Those that do not immediately denounce hateful, violent groups," she wrote, "do not share my values and will not be a part of my team."
On May 2, 2019, Lathus addressed her removal by Carr.
"I learned of her decision the same way many of you did," she wrote on Facebook. "I was sent a screenshot of a post made by the founder of the HBCF [Huntington Beach Community Forum]. This was highly inappropriate in my opinion. I want to be very clear that I have never known, associated, or been acquainted, with Antifa or any other extremist group. I support our local law enforcement and denounce attacks on our police and other law enforcement."
In booting Lathus, Carr satisfied the political lust of HB's rightist ranks, including "Adorable Deplorable" Kristopher Dreww who later had his home raided by the FBI following his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021 capitol siege.
Carr certainly didn't stand by Lathus as former councilman Patrick Brenden did when he refused to remove Gracey Van Der Mark from the finance commission in 2018 after she actively participated in crashing a white privilege workshop in Santa Monica with a white supremacist band of "Unite the Right" anti-Semites and racists.
Despite that incident, and Van Der Mark's documented online Holocaust denialism, former councilbro Tito Ortiz elevated her to the planning commission, a move that, alongside others, didn't warrant the stripping of his Mayor Bro Tem title, as Carr and company had granted him a second chance.
Quick reminder: Van Der Mark once was an apologist for a planned book burning on the beach organized by a fascist and a neo-Nazi writing, "it was supposed to be a burning of magazines and literature taking advantage of our kids."
The way it pans out in HB, anti-Semites get to keep their council-appointed positions while Lathus, a Jewish woman, just had to go. And, as a matter of fact, a faction of HB residents are pushing to have Van Der Mark, as the 4th highest vote getter in the 2020 election, be appointed to replace Ortiz, who resigned last week.
Stay classy, HB!
Far from dubious double-standards or caving to political partisan attack, Carr's move is alleged to have "violated Ms. Lathus's right to be free from government compelled speech." In legal remedy, the suit seeks a formal declaration of such from the city. In addition, it also demands Lathus' reinstatement on the Citizens Participatory Advisory Board as well as unspecified damages.
Should Lathus prevail in court, Carr would ironically be pegged for the very same thing antifa is dinged by its critics for: stifling free speech.
- Gabriel San Román
Tito with the Juicey Juice smash mic drop!
Editor's note: The Slingshot is happy to have welcomed "Councilbro Chronicles" as a new feature! Its focus was on a now former Mayor Bro Tem in Huntington Beach named Tito Ortiz and all his bumbling misdeeds. Take it away one last time, anonymous contributor!
“You can’t fire me,” Tito Ortiz said, in defiance. “I quit!” And just like that, Huntington Beach’s half-year experiment in d’uh-mocracy ended with the Mayor Bro Tem’s surprise resignation during the June 1 city council meeting. Most of the facts have already been widely reported by major media outlets while social media pundits offered their hot takes online. But quite a few people have come to me with their lingering questions about Ortiz and I’d like to take this opportunity to answer them: What is Tito going to do next? In the days since his departure, Ortiz has announced a couple of new business ventures on Instagram that would have been potential conflicts of interest if he had remained on council. The posts have been captioned, “Time to get back to work,” as if his short-lived tenure in city government was a taxpayer-funded vacation. Over the last couple of months, he has been spotted on various business trips with his longtime friend and campaign donor Jay Yadon, who founded a series of increasingly sketchy real estate operations, some of which are tied to commercial cannabis. Ortiz now appears to be working with Yadon in a more official capacity. He and his girlfriend are also involved in a new company called Symple Payments, which claims to handle online and credit card transactions for businesses. The company’s address is in Huntington Beach, but no business entity under that name is registered with the California Secretary of State. Grifters gonna grift. Can he collect unemployment now that he’s resigned? The short answer is no, he can’t collect unemployment related to his former position on city council. He may still qualify for other forms of public assistance, like the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance offered by the state for freelancers, or future COVID-related loan or grant opportunities for businesses. Luckily, it appears he’s already received a $100,000 offer for a 2-on-1 fight from a porn company, so hopefully he’ll be back to paying his own bills again soon. And after the months of pointless drama he put us through, it’ll be sort of satisfying to watch him get punched in the face again. Do you think Tito is going to sue anyone for defamation? No. If he did, it would be what is known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” SLAPP suits are pretty unwinnable and designed purely to bully and intimidate critics into silence--a moot point now that he’s resigned from city council. Also, Ortiz can’t even afford his mortgage right now, so I don’t know how anyone thinks he would pay for a frivolous lawsuit or the inevitable anti-SLAPP penalties. Who’s going to take his place? Good question! Barbara Delgleize was chosen on Wednesday to replace Ortiz as Mayor Pro Tem, but his seat on the council remains vacant. According to the city charter, if the council fails to appoint a replacement within 60 days, the city must hold a special election to fill the vacancy. A lot of folks are suggesting that 2020 council candidates Gracey Van Der Mark or Oscar Rodriguez could be appointed. I don’t think that’s realistic. Without Ortiz, no party has a majority on council, and introducing partisan candidates to the debate could result in a 3-3 tie. If I was a council member, I would try to choose the least controversial person possible. Take Planning Commissioner Connie Mandic, for instance. She’s involved in the community and has years of experience in city government. I think Mandic would enjoy immediate bipartisan support, which is essential if the city wants to avoid yet another toxic election. Full disclosure, I voted for Rodriguez in 2020 and I’ll vote for him again this year if a special election is ordered. But I can wait until 2022 to see him on the dais if it means we get a few months of normalcy in Huntington Beach. It’s hard to organize for collective action when we’re constantly in crisis mode. What’s going to happen to your column? I can’t predict the future, but it’s my dearest hope that Tito Ortiz will fade into obscurity--and I will never, ever feel compelled to write about him, ever again. But my work--our work--isn’t done just because one awful man resigned. It’s our responsibility to continue watching, even when we think it might be safe to look away, in order to hold our elected officials to their oaths. On a personal note, I want to express my deep appreciation for everyone who followed my work on Slingshot and Orange Juice Blog and for the editors who gave me a platform. Covering Tito Ortiz’s political career was my first foray into journalism and I am so grateful to have found a renewed love of storytelling as well as a welcoming community of civically-engaged neighbors. Thank you for reading!
Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina
During a trip to the Mouse House, my girlfriend once spotted a foo wearing a Disneyland spirit jersey that was silver and black. "When you want to rep the Raiders but Mickey, too!" she quipped.
If half of all parkgoers before the pandemic were Latinos, you know there had to be some foos up in the mix. I had a good laugh when the homie Frank John Tristan sent me to the "Disneyfoos" account on Instagram documenting as much. There you'll find a catalogue of cholos and cholas enjoying a day at Disneyland.
How do the Happiest Foos on Earth get down at Disney? Do some scrolling to learn what's good.
Foos do the prison yard hand clasp with costumed characters, throw gang signs when photographed on thrill rides, sneak in vape pens and do it all while walking down Main Street G'd up from the feet up.
The Disneyfoos account is a comedy of contrasts. Everybody knows the most cholo-filled theme park in Southern California in Six Flags Magic Mountain, not Disneyland. But who cares to a see a page dedicated to that?
In the meantime, shout out to the homies Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, Sneezy, Doc and the rest of the foo crew!
By the Bylines
ICYMI: LibroMobile is open in downtown Santa Ana, again! Not only that, but later this month, the indie bookstore is hosting an in-person author event with Mary Camarillo (which will also be virtual, as well).
Camarillo is a local writer who's just graced us with "The Lockhart Women," a novel about Brenda Lockhart, a Huntington Beach mom, and her two daughters, Peggy and Allison.
Before her event, I interviewed Camarillo about the book and featured it in my "Off the Page" column this month. Get your summer reading started right!
Lead photo: Lathus freely gives a speech / Photo from campaign website