On the heels of a failed attempt by a Huntington Beach school board to secure a restraining order against him, an illegal immigration activist called Tuesday for the board president’s resignation.
Dozens of community members, parents and out-of-town activists packed the Ocean View School District board meeting. Some supported President Gina Clayton-Tarvin, while others complained she attempted to stifle free speech by seeking a court order against the activist when his supporters made comments on his Facebook page that she found threatening and he allegedly “liked.” Still others sounded off on immigration, an issue not before the board.
The activist, Raymond Herrera, who lives in Victorville, has attended Ocean View meetings for more than a month. In response to what officials believed to be threatening comments at public meetings and on social media, the district decided to pursue a restraining order against him on behalf of Clayton-Tarvin.
In a court filing, Clayton-Tarvin cited two videos posted on Herrera’s Facebook page and what she described as threatening comments from his followers as reasons for feeling “fear and anxiety that Mr. Herrera poses a real and objective danger” to her well-being.
However, Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin, citing free-speech concerns and Clayton-Tarvin’s position as an elected official, denied the request for a temporary restraining order April 3.
During public comments Tuesday, Herrera also asked for other members of the board who have voiced opposition to his views to resign. The board did not respond.
Clayton-Tarvin was not present because of a family emergency, officials said.
“I’m a little bit sad to see that Gina Tarvin actually showed her true colors today, that of a coward,” Herrera said. “She’s not here today after stirring up the pot for the last month and a half I’ve been here.”
He continued as if speaking to Clayton-Tarvin directly: “Your days as board president of this school board of this district are near an end.”
Clayton-Tarvin said Wednesday morning that she has no plans to resign from her position on the board.
“I have been given the great honor by the voters … to serve a second term and I was reelected with an overwhelming margin,” she said. “I am proud and thankful to the voters to give me the opportunity to represent them and the children of the Ocean View School District.”
Herrera contended that the district violated his First Amendment rights and were attempting to stifle his right to free speech by pursuing a restraining order.
The district issued a press release last week clarifying its reasons for pursuing the restraining order.
Ocean View, the release stated, is “obligated to take cautionary measures, which may include seeking restraining orders on behalf of its employees and officials, upon being made aware of a threat of violence that could potentially endanger members of the OVSD community.”
However, the statement did not mention a judge had denied the request, which angered some of Herrera’s supporters.
“When you attack Raymond, you attack all of America,” Herrera said.
Some attendees clapped after Herrera’s comments. Others yelled “sit down” and held up signs reading “Make America kind again” and “Stay strong, we resist racism.”
Clayton-Tarvin on Wednesday defended the district’s decision to pursue the restraining order.
“Free speech is one thing. Even hate speech is protected,” she said, “but when you’re talking about speech that could incite violence, that’s completely different. The health, safety and welfare of our students, employees and other board members is paramount. It’s my first priority.”
Huntington Beach police intervened when Herrera, one of his supporters and an opponent faced off in the parking lot outside the board room following public comments. The group held cameras toward one another as they traded verbal jabs before police calmed the conflict and Herrera left.
Several community members and parents spoke in favor of the board and noted their support for Clayton-Tarvin.
Parent Katheryn Clark thanked the district for its support of Oak View Elementary School, which is located in a primarily Latino neighborhood in Huntington.
Clark said the issue with Herrera is not about freedom of speech, and the district should do whatever it can to protect students from harassment.
“I know what it’s like to face discrimination because my mother was a shade of brown that people did not like,” she said. “It is astounding that it’s happening in today’s day and age. I can’t believe we are back to where I was and these children are having to face and endure this sort of discrimination and racism.”
Clayton-Tarvin said the district has the legal responsibility to educate every child who registers to attend school.
“I believe that his anger that he’s projecting upon our school board is completely misdirected,” she said. “His complaints and dissatisfaction should be lodged with the federal government and not the school board.”