Echo Park - A long-time neighborhood council member has offered a letter of resignation following a controversy over a statue on his porch that had a noose tied around it.
Tad Yenawine, who has served on the council for about a decade and recently held the position of secretary, said the statue was placed on the porch by his roommate. But Yenawine became the target of a petition and criticism in the aftermath of BLM protests in early June.
“I’m kind of disappointed and I wish I'd handled things differently,” Yenawine told The Eastsider.
In an email he sent out Wednesday, Yenawine said, "I am resigning because of the threats from 'community members' and very poor treatment by other Board members."
A petition responding to the statue and the acrimonious online discussion that followed has been calling not only for Yenawine’s resignation, but also demands that District 2 Representative Chris Ellington and Council Chair Darcy Harris step down.
The statue - an armless, legless lawn gnome - had a teal colored rope around its neck. Yenawine recalls first seeing it after he returned from vacation at the beginning of January. The roommate who put it there had troubles with depression, Yenawine said.
Though Yenawine didn't place the the statue, he talked of how it ran in line with his dark aesthetic.
“I’m the guy who had a coffin in my front yard for two years,” he said. “I’m an old punk rocker. We put skulls on everything.”
After several months, however, a photo of the statue with the noose became prominent on social media, provoking charges that the display had racist overtones.
In his letter of resignation, Yenawine said he became aware of a conversation on Nextdoor.com about the gnome statue, and he immediately removed it.
"I went on Nextdoor the next day to try and apologize for any harm and to explain what other interpretations might be possible besides a racist statement in answer to the thread entitled: What is this supposed to mean?! I gather I misunderstood the subject line as I attempted to provide some insight and context but was not received well. In retrospect, this is not all that surprising as the original post had carefully cropped out the BLM signs on the front of the house.
"I can understand why someone would be upset by a noose, particularly in this historic moment. My response was clumsy. I should have been more careful and sensitive."
In a document attached to the petition, it is noted that the statue was still up as of the second week of June, and was visible from the sidewalk.
"It was very triggering — Robert Fuller was lynched a few days prior," the statement said. (The death of Fuller, who was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale in June, has been ruled a suicide.) The document's author - whose name could not be found on the petition or the attached statement - claimed to be a 20-something-year-old Los Angeles native who just recently moved to Echo Park.
The NextDoor.com discussion broadened the complaints against Yenawine, and raised grievances against Ellington and Harris, who were not initially involved.
“Tad Yenawine was dismissive and insulting toward those bringing up concerns,” the statement said.
Yenawine told The Eastsider he is still new to the world of social media.
“I was a little taken aback by the vitriol that had come back right away,” he said. “Being unfamiliar with cancel culture, I played right into that.”
He also said his tone was misinterpreted.
“I am steeped in irony and sarcasm,” he said. “Irony and sarcasm simply don’t read in text.”
Ellington also joined in on the NextDoor discussion, prompting the complaining document to state, “Fellow EPNC member Chris Ellington then defended the depiction of lynching. In the ensuing comment thread, Chris Ellington was abusive and overtly racist -- especially toward women and POC who voiced their concerns.”
Speaking to The Eastsider, Ellington said the petition “was assembled by someone who is not old enough to have the degrees needed to be qualified to psychoanalyze anyone.”
He added that, at a recent Halloween party at Yenawine’s house, Yenawine “had hundreds of people of all races, genders and sexual identities into his home - as he has every Halloween for close to 20 years.”
Harris did not take part in the NextDoor thread. But the complainant said, “While Darcy's behavior may not be overtly racist or inflammatory, she is complicit by covering for and therefore enabling and elevating Chris and Tad's dangerous behavior.”
In her responses to The Eastsider, Harris emphasized her determination to remain neutral.
“Although personally dismayed, I do not feel I can address accusations against me as an individual outside of the procedural channels I agreed to abide by when choosing to serve as an NC boardmember,” Harris said, “and especially when I was entrusted with leading the EPNC as Chair, which I believe requires the highest level of neutrality.”
She also took board members to task in an earlier public statement, saying, “To ensure transparency, nearly all of our business must be done in a public forum, and board members should strive to refrain from engaging in group discussions, in any form, outside of a properly noticed public meeting on issues that may come before the Board.”
Yenatine's resignation letter mentions that other board members also spoke on the issue in public settings - attacking him rather than defending him. He did not specify who those board members were.
In his email, he added, "I think we all need to ask ourselves if the Neighborhood Council system is worth fighting for and about; it has been so troubled for so many years, and the reward for making it functional seems to be abuse, prejudice, and grief."
The board has scheduled a special meeting for tonight. Supporting documents for the meeting include the censure policy for neighborhood councils, and the policy for removing a board member.