Lu Hernandez paints in her studio Dec. 11, 2020, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Lu Hernandez paints in her studio Dec. 11, 2020, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Low opposes activist’s appointment to justice advisory group

He cited Luisana Hernandez’ “anti-police” Facebook posts. But he misconstrued the comments, she said.

EVERETT — Snohomish County Councilman Sam Low on Wednesday voted against an Everett activists’ appointment to a local law and justice advisory group, citing her “anti-police” posts to social media.

During a virtual council meeting, Low questioned Luisana Hernandez about whether she was referring to Everett police officers when she used the words “oppressors” and “ignorant racists” in comments published on her Facebook page last fall.

His four colleagues voted in favor of Hernandez’ appointment to the county’s Regional Law and Justice Council, an advisory body that helps address problems related to the justice system.

“I am not here today to attack Ms. Hernandez’ character, but I do have a right as a council member to do my due diligence in this appointment process,” said Low, who has been a vocal supporter of local law enforcement as activists have raised concerns about police brutality and misconduct. “Placing someone on this commission that might feel like abolishing police is the answer — that wouldn’t be fair to the candidate or to the Law and Justice Council.”

Specifically, he asked her about a September post, in which she criticized Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin for supporting the city’s police officers.

In a subsequent comment on the post, Hernandez said she “will not be thankful for a woman in office that tows the line for oppressors.”

“If you’re not easily upset by ignorant racists that project their emotional fragility and hateful perspectives, you could visit the Everett Police Officers Association FB Page,” she wrote in another comment in the same thread.

Hernandez, a 38-year-old person of color who’s involved with a variety of community groups, said Low took her statements out of context.

“I’m referring to the people who were active in the conversations in that group. Now if you weren’t a part of that, you would not understand what I’m speaking of,” she told Low. “I had someone tell me that white privilege is not real. I had someone tell me that racism does not exist. Would I call those ignorant remarks? Absolutely.”

“I don’t have it out for police,” she said in response to further questioning from the councilman. “But when other people conduct themselves in such a way that makes it evident that they are not willing to have open-minded and open-hearted conversations, then yes, I will say what I see.”

Some might have considered her appointment routine County Council business at first blush. But the heated exchange between Low and Hernandez underscores the tension still straining local talks about racial justice reform, more than six months after activists first began calling on county officials to “defund the police” and invest more money in human services.

Inflammatory social media posts have increasingly become ammunition in clashes between police allies and critics of law enforcement. An Everett police union leader recently came under scrutiny for his connection to a private Twitter account that condoned violence against protesters, though he has said that his son was behind the controversial posts.

The County Council approved six other appointments to the Regional Law and Justice Council unanimously, without discussion.

Jason Smith, Castill Hightower, Savannah Jackson, Joyce Copley, Kristina Jorgensen and Gloria Ngezaho — as well as Hernandez — will sit on the advisory body alongside elected leaders, law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys and others who play a role in the criminal justice system.

In total, 37 people applied to become resident representatives on the regional council.

The positions were recently created to ensure that communities that have historically been mistreated or ignored by the justice system have a say in the advisory group’s recommendations.

The Snohomish County Executive’s Office provided the County Council with the seven nominations, including one resident from each County Council district and two at-large representatives.

Nominations to such groups are typically confirmed as part of the County Council’s routine “consent agenda” vote, unless one or more council members object.

At a Monday County Council committee meeting, Low requested that the council vote on Hernandez’ appointment separately. He did not say why that afternoon.

On Wednesday, he accused Hernandez of spreading misinformation online about the appointment procedure when she encouraged other community members to voice support for her nomination.

“It’s too bad that some have tried to use this process as a political attack on me instead of highlighting their reasons for support like some did for their candidate this morning and yesterday,” he said. “I want to make it clear: I will not shy away from doing my job fully or completely. And I will not be bullied or intimidated by those who twist or distort the facts to score their political points.”

But Hernandez maintained that Low singled her out, combing her Facebook page for months-old posts and misconstruing them.

“To deny me political participation at this level because I’m able to articulate my objections to the inequitable systems that govern us and I am not afraid to speak truth to power is to perpetuate the same oppression that created the need for these seven positions in the first place,” she said.

County Councilwoman Megan Dunn defended Hernandez.

“Council Member Low objects to semantics, and he’s trying to deflect from the issue, but he’s not the victim in this case,” Dunn said. “He’s forced Lu to have to defend herself.”

Low said that, after first learning of Hernandez’ “anti-police” social media posts over the weekend, his assistant contacted her on Tuesday and could not reach her.

Hernandez pointed out that the call came after 4 p.m. that day.

“I had appointments,” she said. “I was not able to drop everything.”

Three other activists voiced support for her appointment during Wednesday’s meeting, including Jacque Julien, executive director of the local non-profit Communities of Color Coalition.

“I find it problematic that again we continue to have conversations with all white council folks when we are the communities of color — stating these are our needs, these are our experiences, these are our values and our contributions to build better, healthier, stronger communities,” Julian said. “And we continue to be silenced. We continue to be shuffled to the side.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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