Thurgood Marshall Bar Association Criticizes Comments by Irvine Mayor

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Mayor Christina Shea at the Dec. 10, 2019 city council meeting.

The Thurgood Marshall Bar Association condemned comments made by Irvine Mayor Christina Shea at a press conference in front of city hall tonight about the protests over the police killing of George Floyd last week. 

Based in Orange County, the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association is “a contemporary bar association committed to connect, support, and increase the Black legal community in Orange County,” according to their website. 

On Friday, their president-elect Rebekah Thomas said that Shea’s remarks were “insensitive, racist and unconstitutional.”

“We are outraged by the expressions of indifference, intolerance, and injustice that we have seen over the last few days from the mayor of Irvine,” Thomas said. “In the face of peaceful protesting, Mayor Shea has spoken and written about her intention to stop those who would be radical behavior, expressions of anger, and other unrest to a place she calls her city. Not our city.”

“Mayor Shea’s sins are spoken. Her words matter. They matter because of the office she occupies and the moment of history in which she speaks. And yet, Mayor Shea has instead reached into our nation’s troubled past and dusted off old bellows of bigotry to subtly and undeniably fan the flames of division.”

“We are in a place that we will no longer tolerate intolerance.”

The conference came after a video statement released by Shea and several comments on her Facebook page that many felt were insensitive to the issue, urging “angry” protestors to stay out of Irvine. 

The address condemned the actions taken by police officers in Minneapolis last week, when officers held a knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he shouted out that he could not breathe and for several minutes after he had fallen unconscious. 

After the condemnation, the majority of the video was spent encouraging protestors to remain nonviolent, and affirming that Shea would direct the Irvine Police Department to enforce the law. 

“If folks desire to peacefully demonstrate at our beautiful city hall, they have every right to do so,” Shea said in her address. “However, we cannot and will not allow any demonstration to turn violent toward our police force or our residents.” 

“I will not allow my city to become a location for expression of anger and hate against my residents and my stellar police force, who I stand behind 100%.” 

Shea also spoke out against protestors that called the Irvine Police Department racist. 

“I do not personally support displays that host profanity, comments of our police officers being racist, or promoting hostility,” Shea said. “We are a safe community and we will remain a safe one.” 

To view the full video of that address, click here.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Thomas said that Shea’s comments addressing what protestors should say were particularly concerning. 

“She attempted to limit what speech the protestors could have, and that included saying things like she won’t allow profanity or calling the police department racist, like she can control the language of protestors,” Thomas said. “We know that’s against the Constitution.”

“There have been no protests in Irvine that are not peaceful. I think the bigger issue is that this is typical speech that we see that’s intended to target black people.” 

Shea also criticized the protests that took place in Santa Ana on her Facebook, during which members of the Irvine Police Department were dispatched to the protest after it was declared an unlawful assembly. 

“Last night our police went to back up the SA police, lots of rioting violence and our cars were attacked,” Shea wrote. “We are supposed to stand with protesters in opposition to our local police forces?”

In a phone call with Voice of OC, Shea said she would not be present at the press conference because she was not invited, and that the conference was politically motivated to damage her reputation ahead of the November election.  

“To have some press conference that I don’t support the African American community, that’s just ridiculous because it’s not even true,” Shea said.

Shea also brought up concerns over her Facebook page, which has received hundreds of comments over the last several days following posts that commenters said made the Irvine protests sound violent. 

Shea said that she’d received at least a dozen comments from fake accounts that she felt were inflammatory and false.  

“I was getting really weird comments that were implying that I was a racist and that I didn’t support BLM. I have never been discriminatory in our city, I have always supported our cultural diversity,” Shea said. “I’m going to expect on my personal page you’re going to respect me. My grandkids are on these posts, my friends are on these posts. I’m not going to listen to this nonsense.” 

Shea said that she believes she is being followed and spied on by political opponents ahead of the 2020 election, specifically citing Councilwoman Farrah Khan as potentially the one organizing it. She also said she believed they were part of organizing the press conference. 

“They’re just making up nonsense to promote themselves. It’s Farrah Khan, Tammy Kim, they just want a higher level position,” Shea said.  “It’s just a political movement to take over city hall and diminish me. It’s shameful.” 

Shea also said that she was being followed and spied on by that organization, citing a video that was posted on Facebook that was reviewed by Voice of OC. 

Running under 15 seconds, the video was posted by Iyad Afalqa, and showed Shea walking in her neighborhood on the phone. The conversation was unclear. 

“I don’t know what’s actually going on here, I’ve had members of the Democratic party tracking me at my home,” Shea said. “I was on an Orange County Mayor’s conference, I heard people on my front porch, and I heard a sound like someone was clicking a video or doing some kind of phone video.”  

“They want to run me down to make themselves look good.” 

Tammy Kim, a candidate for city council in the upcoming election, could not be reached for comment. 

When called for comment, Khan called the accusation “totally incorrect.” 

“What she’s hearing are the community members speaking up,” Khan said.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.