A Huntington Beach woman was removed from a city board this week after photos were circulated online showing her standing next to what some people said were Antifa protesters during a downtown rally Saturday.
Councilwoman Kim Carr recently appointed Shayna Lathus to the Citizens Participation Advisory Board, a volunteer group appointed by City Council members to discuss how block grants should be distributed throughout the community.
Lathus came under scrutiny from some community members after photos showed her at a protest organized by Occupy Ice L.A. and Indivisible OC at Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway. They were there to counter a rally organized by a group called What You Can Do Now to protest a California “sanctuary state” law that gives expanded protections to undocumented immigrants.
The city of Huntington Beach is embroiled in a closely watched legal battle against the law, formally known as the California Values Act. That battle is ongoing.
Huntington Beach native Craig Frampton said in an interview Thursday that he saw Lathus at the rally standing next to Victor Valladares, an activist for the city’s Oak View neighborhood and the west county vice chairman for the Democratic Party of Orange County. Frampton said he saw Lathus clapping and chanting as she stood near other protesters who were holding a sign opposing President Trump.
Frampton claimed activists for the Antifa, or “anti-fascist,” movement — known for its disruptive tactics — also were at the rally. Huntington Beach Police Department spokeswoman Angela Bennett said in an email that five people were arrested at the event, though their ties are unclear.
Frampton created an online petition on Change.org a day after the rally calling on Carr to remove Lathus from the city board. The petition garnered 963 signatures.
Appointed officials have “no business being in a rally like that, no matter what side you’re on,” Frampton said.
The petition includes a photo of Lathus applauding next to Valladares, who is holding a bullhorn and wearing a neon-green vest. Other people in the image are clad in black and others are holding signs. Antifa activists are noted for black attire.
Lathus shared her side of the story on her Facebook account Monday to “set the record straight.” She said she was at a “peaceful rally to support my friends who felt the need to be present during a demonstration in Huntington Beach. It is no secret that I support immigrants’ rights, so it was natural for me to be present.”
“There are photos being circulated of me standing on a sidewalk and there are Antifa near me in the photos,” she wrote. “I was not engaging with them. There were a lot of people walking up and down the sidewalk. I was present for my friends, and that’s where my focus lay. I was asked at one point to help hold the ‘Dump Trump’ banner and I refused, as that is not why I was present, nor is that a message I intended to convey.”
She said she didn’t know Antifa activists would be present and wasn’t aware of when they arrived.
“After there was a scuffle, my friends and I left the area. I do NOT stand for violence of any kind and will not be associated with that behavior,” Lathus said.
Valladares declined to comment about the rally.
Carr released a statement to the City Council and top department heads Wednesday saying: “In light of recent events that were brought to my attention, I have decided to remove my appointed commissioner, Shayna Lathus, from the Citizen Participation Advisory Board … effective immediately. I will seek to [appoint] a new board member in the weeks ahead.”
In an interview Thursday, Carr said she “spent a very good amount of time” investigating the matter before making her decision. Carr said she reviewed video and spoke to Lathus, others who attended the rally, the police chief and nearby business owners. She said the petition did not play a part in her decision.
But Lathus said in a text message Thursday that Carr “did not investigate the incident, give me due process, nor meet with me to discuss the matter.”
“She unceremoniously dumped me from CPAB without formally telling me,” Lathus said. “What a sad day in our city when our leaders can’t even give their constituents the common courtesy to hear them out. I stand by the truth and I have no regrets in how I handled myself. I stand against hate and extremism and vow to continue to represent the citizens of H.B. in a respectful manner.”
Carr, however, said the two “spoke at length on two separate occasions.”
“I could not have made it any more clear,” Carr said.
In 2016, Valladares resigned from the same board after he attracted national attention by taking a Donald Trump piñata to a rally in Anaheim for the then-presidential candidate and encouraged other protesters to destroy it.