A staffer for a San Diego city councilwoman reacted to protesters who interrupted inauguration proceedings with “hands up, don’t shoot” by referring to the disruptors as “f*cking idiots,” before adding “I wanted to shoot them,” reports KPBS.
Shirley Owens, who serves as a community liaison to Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, made the comments in the front of members of the public and the press as they waited for an opportunity to speak with the councilwoman after she was sworn in to serve a new term.
The protesters began their rally outside San Diego’s Golden Hall, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” before entering the building. Once inside they rotated between gestures of raising their arms up, putting their hands around their throats, and staging a “die in” by lying down on the ground.
Following the inauguration ceremonies, a frustrated Owens was heard saying, “f*cking idiots with their hands up” and “I wanted to shoot them.”
Asked later in the day about the protesters and Owen’s comments, Zapf said she supported the demonstrators’ right to protest and said they were not disruptive at the ceremony. She added that she would speak to Owen about her comments.
In a statement, delivered the next day by her communications director, Alex Bell, she said: ” Protesting is one of the rights guaranteed to us by the First Amendment, and Councilmember Zapf fully supports that right. Regarding any comment that may or may not have been made by a staff member, action is being taken internally to address the issue. Due to the City’s personnel rules, I am unable to discuss this matter further at this time.”
Bell added that neither Zapf nor Owens would speak to the media about the incident, saying it was a “personnel matter.”
Mark Jones, the 33-year-old Marine veteran who led the protest, said Owen’s comments were an example of the “bigotry” and “racial discrimination” that he and other members of the group were protesting against.
“I know that I have to go through this very system to produce change. I have to fight against that just so I can get our human rights,” he said.
Jones handed a list of demands calling for changes in how police and prosecutors deal with deadly force cases to each of the city council members he could reach. Unable to speak with Zapf, Jones said, “Just imagine, what if I couldn’t get to the council member and I got to (Owen) instead and it was her job to relay this to the council?”
According to Owen’s city biography page, she went to work for Zapf’s office bringing over thirty years of customer service experience working for Nordstrom.