Black Transgender Group Demands John Duran’s Resignation from WeHo City Council

Painting the transgender flag on Santa Monica Boulevard on June 13 (Facebook)

City Councilmember John Duran’s criticism of the painting of an image of the transgender flag in the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards has led to a call for his resignation by transgender activists.

“John Duran, we have learned that you are not a champion of transgender causes and are willing to silence the trans community even during Pride month. You are a reminder of how cancerous government officials can be, and John Duran, you are a cancer to the West Hollywood community,” said a statement from the Unique Woman’s Coalition,  a non-profit organized in 1997 that supports transgender women of color. The statement was distributed Saturday by Chela Demuir, president and executive director of UWC and also the national vice president of FLUX, a division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that supports transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Chela Demuir

The call for Duran’s resignation is the latest in a number of public disputes between members of the Black and white LGBTQ communities. They began when Black activists objected to plans by Christopher Street West, the producer of the annual LA Pride parade and festival, to stage a “solidarity march” in support of those protesting the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer. Those activists called out CSW for not engaging Black community leaders in the planning. In response, CSW cancelled its protest and the All Black Lives Matter event took place on June 14. Then, in two recent virtual forums, Black community leaders such as Jewel Thais-Williams, Jasmyne Cannick, and Marquita Thomas, who are lesbians, questioned the acceptance of Black people by white residents of West Hollywood, a city where 33% of the population consists of gay men and where only 4% of the residents are Black.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Duran had objected that people had painted the blue, pink, and white trans flag image in the intersection without seeking the city’s permission. The image was painted at night on June 13 ahead of the next day’s All Black Lives Matter protest in which an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people marched down Santa Monica Boulevard to protest police brutality. Duran later learned that members of city boards and commissions had participated in the painting and that Mayor Lindsey Horvath and law enforcement officers had been present while it was being done. Councilmember Lauren Meister also objected to the fact that the painting had been done without seeking permission from the city.

“There is a reason that law enforcement and government officials have to remain neutral on free speech,” Duran said in a text message to WEHOville about the flag painting. “For example, if this sets a precedent and a group wants to paint a Confederate flag on Santa Monica Boulevard, we can’t say ‘oh we agree with trans rights so that unauthorized mural can stay, but your Confederate flag has to go.’  Now we are regulating content.  And the government cannot regulate free speech — whether it’s law enforcement or city government. “

All Black Lives Matter protestors gathered around transgender flag painted on the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards.

It its statement, the UWC said: ” The painting of the trans flag was a statement to highlight the disproportionate statistics of trans murders and violence across the world and in support of inclusion for the All Black Lives Matter March in the cities of Hollywood and West Hollywood on Sunday, June 14th, 2020.

“We are compelled to remind you of the Stonewall uprising. It was a Black transgender woman who threw the first brick 50 years ago as we observe this pivotal anniversary this year. History observes this as the galvanizing act of what we know today as the Gay Liberation Movement. The Stonewall riots made it possible for the City of West Hollywood and other LGBTQ+ cities like it to be what they are today. You may be disconnected from this reality; however, that reality is history—our history, your history.

“And because of that, we will hold you accountable to our foremothers and forefathers whose sacrifices you benefit from today.”

The statement claimed that “trans people are attacked and face discrimination while in West Hollywood,” that transgender people “are tokenized during Pride month for entertainment purposes,” and that the city’s Transgender Advisory Council doesn’t fully represent the transgender community.

Transgender people have complained of discrimination in West Hollywood in the past. Ashlee-Marie Preston, a prominent member of the transgender community, said that employees of Catch, the upscale restaurant atop the building on the northwest corner of San Vicente  Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, treated her poorly because she was a transgender woman. Shayan Siren, a West Hollywood resident who is a Black transgender woman, posted a story on Facebook several years ago about being denied entrance to 1 Oak, the club on Sunset Boulevard, and to the Hyde on Sunset restaurant and lounge because of her race and her transgender status.

In its statement, the UWC also said that Duran’s mention of the Confederate flag in his criticism of the painting without a permit of the transgender flag, “speaks to your tone-deafness to LGBTQ+ issues at large…”

In its demand that Duran resign, UWC also noted Duran’s stepping down from the position of mayor in 2019 when his fellow Council members passed a resolution censuring him in response to comments he had made on radio about their sex lives, disparaging comments he had made about a gay Asian man because of his ethnicity, and allegations that he had made unwanted sexual advances on young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, which Duran then chaired.  UWC also noted that the City of West Hollywood had paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Duran’s City Hall deputy accusing him of inappropriate behavior and that he had supported and taken campaign contributions from Ed Buck, the gay white man now in federal prison awaiting trial on charges related to the deaths of two black men of drug overdose in his Laurel Avenue apartment.

Duran is up for re-election to the City Council on Nov. 3.

  1. I want the paint removed and Lindsey Horvath. It was done illegally and she did it. There’s no issue with John Derann whatsoever, you’re just trying to make him a scapegoat. I don’t know any gay people that live here in West Hollywood that have a problem with transgender people. This is all made up.

  2. I don’t know if this takes away from the artwork discussion, but I thought the original riot took place in LA, not in NYC.

    Drag queens and good old gay men had had enough.

  3. “speaks to your (Duran’s) tone-deafness to LGBTQ+ issues at large…”
    No, it speaks to Duran’s training as a lawyer. Whether or not you like him he is stating a literal and legal truth, and doing otherwise would do a disservice to his position as a council person and as an attorney.

  4. Ugh. I can’t wait for all of this “power” to be taken away from these “protesters” and “whistle blowers” again. It is getting so old and annoying. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  5. The rainbow flag is for the LGBT community the T is transgender. While were a discussing this, I think that it is time for the crosswalks to be freshened up. The city council need to approve a budget to repaint them.

  6. So many comments against Mayor Horvath’s participation in painting the TransFlag seem to be from gay white people upset that WeHo is no longer — but alas, it is — such a ghetto of LGB (T & Q not welcome) assumed privilege. Come’on brothers and sisters, history is moving forward and you are in the caboose.

    1. That’s a very lofty and arrogant assumption and damnation of the motivations of people who have offered thoughtful and respectful commentary. It’s sad that the pages of WEHOville, from reporting to commentary, further the treatment of “WeHo” as a monolith on which the sins of a few are heaped on the populace at large. In a complex world (i.e., reality) multiple truths can co-exist. All are welcome AND Horvath’s complicity in criminal vandalism was wrong. Neither erases the other. Observation alone, albeit anecdotal by nature, belies the highly emotional narrative that is staining a community undeserving of the scorn based on the wrongs of the few. “WeHo” is not a monolith and its individuals have hearts and minds every bit as full of support, love and peace as the people outside its 1.9 square miles of 35,000 unique souls.

  7. How did this even become a wedge issue of WeHo 2020? Let candidates differentiate themselves on issues that aren’t merely symbolic. The rest is just noise..

  8. Brava!!! Mayor Horvath, for having joined in the TransFlag street painting! Councilmember Duran’s twisted, legalistic argument would not mean allowing a Confederate Flag on the pavement or anywhere else other than private property. Councilmember Meister needs to come clean on where she really stands on this issue. As an historian of Modern European fascism I would claim an extra-legal right to erase Nazi symbols from our streets, even as the Trumpian echo chamber reverberates with ‘Triumph of the Will’ images and chants worthy of der Fuhrer and il Duce. Do Duran and Co not understand that we are now in a moment of dangerous repression with every non-violent act of defiance to be defended?
    Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.
    West Hollywood

  9. Who gives a damn if there was no permit.
    Right on Act Up fight back
    Transgender Rights
    You don’t get very far if you are always polite.

  10. The transgender flag at the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente Blvds. was installed without a permit from the city.OK,instead of hollering about it,why don’t the city council and city manager come out with a permit process for this kind of thing.The process would be orderly and can go through the regular channels and the city council would be notified of such things.The process could be made time-sensitive for immediate events and residents would still have a say in it.

    1. at least one city official that vandalized city property knows the law of the land quite well, but chose not to.

      1. vandalized city property? Has society gone so nuts that a harmless street painting in support of the TG community, some of whom are murdered for who they are, is considered vandalism?
        It would appear that West Hollywood’s thinking is about 30 years behind the times. West Hollywood leadership, including Boards and Commissions needs to be replaced, replaced by forward thinking, progressive people. I would love to see someone is her/his 20’s or 30’s run for City Council, shift the majority of the Council to Women and have the first TG Mayor.
        We need leadership who knows what it’s like to live in the “real and current world” and not the ivory towers of the past.

  11. I have no problem with the flag being in the middle of the intersection except that it was done illegally with Lindsey Horvath not getting any approval while she’s supervised it in the middle of the night. That sounds completely illegal to me. If anyone should be removed it should be her.
    Thank you John Duran for standing up, thank you Lauren Meister for your comment. All are welcome to live in West Hollywood, Trans, black, white and every color or sexuality you can think of.
    Everyone needs to wake up and see what the government is doing to us, they are separating us instead of uniting us. We all must vote in November.

  12. An effort to change the narrative by mayor Lindsey Horvath and John Erickson for their illegal and unacceptable behavior as public servants. How much will it cost the city to remove the paint?
    Do not vote for Erickson.
    The Council must censure Lindsey Horvath for this.

    1. We can actually sue Horvath. It’s called a breach of trust lawsuit. But what can you expect from a mayor who comes from a small hick-town in Ohio.

    2. I was going to be voting for Erickson. He lost my vote. We don’t need elected officials that break the law. Have had enough.

  13. The election is 5 months away – losing at the ballot box is more humiliating than resignation. Let the voters make the decision.

    1. Unfortunately Lindsey Horvath is not up for re-election this cycle, so she won’t be on the ballot. Can’t vote her out this year.
      But can keep her stooge John Erickson off the council.
      Censure Horvath and vote against Erickson.

  14. Why are we always trying to divide black vs white?!? This has nothing to do with race, and I don’t even believe Duran is white!!!

  15. How very sad to flip the script and the point, to create a new narrative out of this. NO ONE IS ANTI TRANS THAT IS IN MY ORBIT. NO ONE. I was at the 1st March for hate in Weho holding Maria Roman’s hand and following Bambi, while we carried a huge pro trans banner, on TV, when it was dangerous for all of us. 2 of my closest friends are trans, both spending Christmas with me and my other friends of every persuasion, religion, background, orientation or identity. They all have my heart. BUT THIS WAS A FLAGRANT vandalism of city property. It was illegal. It was politically expedient to begin a fake narrative. NO ONE considered ANYTHING about the ramifications. The rainbow crosswalks took forever to get because studies on safety were done. Community input was done. The correct NON SKID., NON HYDRO PLANING PAINT was used. To say that a city, which is liable for any of those things, or any elected official in Weho is anti trans is insane. It is simply a distraction as to the real issue. Vandalism of city property by officials appointed to protect the city. And another thing, don’t try coming for me as a racist. The guy who has my heart for 9 years is brown. DARK BROWN, and has a trans aunt the he loves and I hope to one day meet. Let’s focus on the real issue. VANDALISM OF CITY PROPERTY by city officials, and the cost to remedy it.

    1. re: virtue signaling (or, as you type, VIRTUE SIGNALING) please read Peggy MacIntosh’s, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” 

      1. Thank you…I’ll take that under consideration. I’d like to recommend reading THE WEST HOLLYWOOD CITY CODES. Filled with info you might appreciate.

  16. I can’t believe I am actually on John Duran’s side, but sorry you can’t just go painting whatever you want on Weho’s streets.

  17. They demand. (Eyeroll) You can demand all you want. Individuals or groups can’t go around painting the city’s streets because they feel like it -for whatever reason or cause. Today you agree with what has been painted. Tomorrow you might not. Grow up and follow the rules.

  18. It was a really bad call by John Duran (who, for the most part, I like as I do all of our City Council). The crosswalk was a form of civil disobedience during a historical movement that has swept the country.
    John should have kept quiet until a later date. Then the whole City Council with community input could have decided to keep, move, or replace the crosswalk with an appropriate something. Perhaps a statue honoring and thanking the trans community and leaders for their many historical accomplishments that all us of who are LGBTQI+ have benefited from.

    1. Erecting a statue to anybody or any cause just now is an iffy proposition. In another generation, somebody will find a reason to knock it down.

  19. For once, I agree with Duran-there’s a process for this and it shouldn’t be ignored, especially by City officials. I’m sure if it had been presented to council everyone would have been on board, including Duran, and especially Meister. Why wasn’t that done? Why not ask council to add the item to the agenda and come up with flags, painted crosswalks, billboards, etc to represent and honor them in a way they would feel proud of?

    You can’t just circumvent the rules when you haven’t even tried to follow the proper procedure, no matter how important the cause is. Otherwise, this just smacks of being a publicity stunt for someone who is running for Council for their own Instagram likes and attention, even if their concern and support may truly be genuine. Doesn’t look right, and Duran’s right- it opens up the door for lawsuits when others want to do the same thing and are not allowed to.

    1. No time. This was immediate. Dithering would have lost focus on this. Since we had no issue paying EIGHTY THOUSAND dollars to paint the rainbow walks, what’s a pressure washer and two workers for a couple of hours if removal is decided. When did we lose our revolutionary spirit? I get the rules and regs thing, but this seemed like the atonement and exception to those rules.

  20. Hell hath frozen over that I rise in support of John Duran’s intellectually honest response to the criminal vandalism by members various city boards and commissions, as well as the complicity of the titular mayor of West Hollywood through her presence and support. This is not about the flag, or anyone’s heartfelt and authentic support of trans rights, or lack thereof. This is about not condoning anarchy. On the first night of the protests we rightly separated the activity of protestors exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights from the criminal behavior of the looters that followed. There is a dishonest narrative being written which wants us to believe that Horvath and crowd, including a candidate for city council, were exercising some freedom to express themselves. I hope they continue to do so without engaging in inauthentic and juvenile stunts designed for the camera. Now we have the words of another candidate for public office who endorses breaking the rules to make a point. #censurehorvath

    1. I could not agree more. Duran’s statement was 100% on point. The public can’t decide- oh we feel this way or that way and decide to deface city property. That’s not how it works. In this case I fully support Duran’s statement. Shame on our mayor for standing by and allowing this to happen. Stand up!

  21. Racist John Diran should be definitely forced to resign. He did everything to subvert the Ed Buck deathtrap Laurel Avenue investigation where black men were murdered or hooked on crystal meth.for 2 and 1/2 years.

    Demonstrate in front of his office building on Sunset boulevard where I believe he gets a discount on the rent. That’s what should be done next. He loves the media attention, so let him wallow in it.

    With a history of $350,000 in tax liens, currently over $100,000, which means he does not pay his taxes on time. He is not a person to represent West Hollywood.

    His scandal-tidden behavior, has made West Hollywood into a total joke. The city had to pay off his assistant that Duran met on Grindr. Then offered him a job. the cost to West Hollywood was a half a million dollars. Then of course there was the district attorney who went after him for his expense accounts.

    Any other city in America, straight or gay, would not tolerate Duran as an elected official. But West Hollywood has coddled and tolerated Duran unbelievable.

  22. The least we could have done is let the trans flag stay in the intersection through Pride Month or at least until City Hall opens. I mean City Hall is closed and you can’t even get ur parking stickers. It should be also noted that in principle another planning commissioner and city official who supervised the painting illegally should bear the cost of clean up. I’d note that when I donated a rainbow flag and asked that it be placed on City Hall- around 2013- Jeffrey Prang approved it to go up on City Hall whole Duran was out of town. When Duran came back he objected and ordered the rainbow flag off city hall. They led to a grand compromise where our city flag turned white w rainbow squares. So don’t give up trying to agent ur message across sometimes ya gotta break a rule! And many others might recall when I posted Cross Safe WeHo sign – a piece of paper w scotch tape on some crosswalks, I was lambasted by some of these same city officials for going against the code and politicizing The death of Clint Bounds.. so the hypocrisy never ends..

    1. You always sound pretty reasonable Larry. In this case not so much. If everyone decided which rules they were going to follow and which rules they were not we’d have anarchy. They’re there for a reason -follow them. And if you want to be on our city Council that’s what your message should be, Larry.

Comments are closed.