By Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) - Mayor R. Rex Parris, whose remarks have more than once generated furious backlash, is taking heart again for labeling a City Council hopeful a “gang candidate.”

But Parris told the Antelope Valley Press ( ) on Wednesday that he stands by remarks he made in the mailer he funded that backs two council incumbents in next month’s election.

The mailer criticizes candidate Johnathon Ervin for helping organize a 2102 demonstration against the shooting of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer.

It says local sheriff’s deputies were labeled “murderers and thugs” at the demonstration and also claims that if elected to the council, Ervin would pass on gang-fighting information to friends.

Ervin, 35, an Air Force veteran with Iraq experience and an aerospace engineer with a secret clearance, said Thursday that he’s never been involved in gangs.

“It’s disgusting and it’s hurtful,” Ervin said of the mailer. “It’s just the worst type of dirty politics.”

“I’m still waiting on an apology from the mayor that I haven’t gotten,” he added.

A message by The Associated Press seeking comment from Parris wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.

Ervin, who is black, also said he hoped there was no racial animosity behind the mailer although “many people have come to me and said, ‘I think it’s race.’”

The city of about 159,000 once was overwhelmingly white but is now nearly 60 percent black and Hispanic. It and other sleepy desert towns northeast of Los Angeles grew rapidly during a suburban housing boom that began in the 1980s. The influx also brought its share of urban problems, including gang crime, poverty and ethnic conflicts.

A federal investigation concluded last year that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in Lancaster and Palmdale had engaged in racial profiling, unlawfully targeting low-income blacks living in public housing, subjecting them to unnecessary stops and seizures, and using unreasonable force.

The campaign mailer, which Ervin said he only heard about this week, has a photograph of the demonstration with Ervin circled in red and identified as directing an “anti-sheriff protest.”

It includes a letter to “fellow citizens” with “From the desk of Mayor R. Rex Parris” and asks points out “how bad things were in Lancaster only four-and-a-half years ago?”

“Gang crime was out of control,” he said. “We heard gunfire at night from our homes. Families were afraid to go out after dark. Thankfully, things are much better today.”

But, the letter warns, one City Council candidate “wants to turn back the clock and make Lancaster a magnet for street gangs.”

The mailer urges a vote against “gang candidate” Ervin and supports incumbents Ron Smith and Vice-Mayor Marvin Crist.

Crist declined to comment specifically on the mailer but told the Antelope Valley Press on Wednesday that he disagreed with “anyone doing hit mailers.”

Smith, however, told the newspaper that the mailer “is perfectly fine.”

“As long as a mailer has all the facts in there and it’s factually accurate, I think when you’re in politics that’s fair game,” he said.

Parris told the Antelope Valley Press that he felt Ervin endorsed anti-police sentiment at the rally by failing to denounce or apologize for remarks made by some who attended.

Ervin said Parris misconstrued the peaceful “Hoodie March” and said he worked with the Sheriff’s Department to coordinate the route. Former Mayor Henry Hearns attended and brought well wishes from Parris, he added.


Information from: Antelope Valley Press,

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