Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek issued a statement over the weekend after images were posted to social media that showed him and his wife tearing down a memorial dedicated to Anthony McClain, a 32-year-old Black man fatally shot by local police in August.
As Blavity previously
reported, McClain was gunned down during a traffic stop on August 15 after he allegedly fled a vehicle and brandished a firearm as he tried running away. Community activists were outraged after his family said McClain was shot in the back and was handcuffed with an officer appearing to be mounted on his back.
On Saturday, Tornek wrote that a group of protesters came to his house Friday night with a list of demands in regards to the McClain shooting. The mayor said the crowd was dismissive of him after he tried discussing police reform, so he returned to his home. According to Tornek’s statement, the demonstration then devolved into a “loud effort” of personal attacks.
“What followed was not a vigil for Mr. McClain, but a loud effort to intimidate and attack me personally. I was subjected to obscene chants and personal insults for an extended period of time. The focus was largely not on Mr. McClain, but rather about promoting the agenda of the event spokesperson and organizer, and compelling me to have a variety of criminal charges pending against her dropped,” the statement read.
According to the Pasadena Star-News, Jasmine Richards, an activist with Black Lives Matter Pasadena, led the group to Tornek’s estate on Friday where they placed signs and candles near the mayor’s home and driveway. Richards has been charged with several counts of malicious mischief since the summer as protests have swelled around the country but has pleaded not guilty.
After the protesters left, Tornek wrote that he and his wife "relocated" pieces of the memorial to keep them out of harm’s way.
“The group left candles and signage. Sometime later, my wife and I moved the candles from the street right-of-way and relocated them onto the curb with the others so that a car wouldn’t run into them. We also removed the signage, some of which included references to murder and killer cops,” he wrote in the statement.
Activists, however, believe city officials have failed McClain and are working to destroy memorials built in his honor. Local news outlet KTLA 5 reported that the Pasadena demonstrators were marching in protest of the Pasadena Police Department removing a McClain memorial on two consecutive nights.
Here’s the Mayor of Pasadena taking down the vigil of Anthony McClain along with his wife. Personally. She also kicked the flowers.
— Sean Carmitchel (@ACatWithNews) October 24, 2020
When asked if he would leave the Friday vigil in peace, the mayor was recorded by activists saying that he would not.
Earlier, Jasmine asked the mayor if Pasadena can just leave the candlelight vigil alone. He was true to his word about this… pic.twitter.com/VSrEzdrStx
— PRECIOUS CHILD (@_preciouschild) October 24, 2020
Friday night, Richards wrote on Facebook that Tornek was dismissive of the memorial and the needs of the community during a time of distress.
“i told Terry Tornek the community wants the vigil there until we find a way for a permanent one . He stated I don't speak for the community. I told him i spoke to all of the neighbors no one has a [p]roblem with the vigil [as] he claims. I also mentioned i spoke with public works workers [and] they don't want to have any part of taking it down, the Police Chief is calling their boss and [making] them,” she wrote.
We made a vigil at mayor terry torneks house for Anthony McClain and 30 minutes later he and his wife took it down like…
Yet, the mayor accused organizers of trying to weaponize public concern and grief over McClain’s death through intimidation and disrespect.
“This event was not a prayerful vigil for Anthony McClain,” he wrote. “This was an event using the emotional upheaval and genuine grief over Mr. McClain’s death to advance another agenda through intimidation.”
In a video recorded during the Friday event, the Black Lives Matter activist proclaimed her endorsement of mayoral candidate Victor Gordo, a Pasadena-native of Mexican descent running his campaign on labor development.
“We want people to know that you are not the mayor for us, that Victor Gordo is the mayor for us. Why? Because he’s the only coming up to our community with apprenticeship jobs for the kids, he’s coming up there with something to do for the kids, which is to get them careers. You haven’t offered anything to Northwest Pasadena,” Richards said.
While the mayor issued his support of vigils and community healing, he said a church would have been a more ideal fit for a McClain memorial, but the Tornek estate is off-limits.