Sierra Unified school trustee facing calls for removal after Capitol incident

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Central Valley school board member who recorded himself at the Capitol during the riots last Wednesday is now the subject of a new protest.

James Hoak's position on the board is under fire less than a month after his swearing-in because he joined the crowd during the protests that escalated to an assault on the U.S. Capitol.

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On Monday night, tensions ran high at a Sierra Unified School District board meeting as attendees steered away from the agenda and turned their attention on Hoak.

More than 400 people attended the virtual meeting.

Half of those who commented were in support of Hoak while the other half urged the board to take action.

One speaker said, "I stand by him 100%."

Another said, "I respect his choices, I respect his political views, but I believe in this case he acted with negligence."

Community organizer Claudia Gonzalez asked for his resignation.

She recently started a petition to get him removed and has already collected nearly 3,000 signatures.

"We should not sugarcoat what Mr. James Hoak is, he is a domestic terrorist," Gonzalez said.

She points to a pair of his now-deleted Facebook videos which several people have shared as part of the FBI's investigation to gather evidence and identify anyone who broke laws.

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James Hoak's position on the board is under fire less than a month after his swearing-in because he joined the crowd during the protests.

Hoak told Action News anyone who says he was inside the Capitol "lies as much as the mainstream media."

His defenders on Facebook turned down requests for interviews, but posted comments like, "It's his right to protest," and "He never entered the Capitol and committed no crime".

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They often compared the Capitol riots with Black Lives Matter protests, in one case claiming -- with a meme of an out of context quote -- that Gov. Gavin Newsom condoned violence in this June 2020 speech.

"The looting and violence the threats against fellow human beings, that has no place in this state and this nation," Newsom said after protests took a violent turn. "We as a society need to call that out."

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During the meeting, the school district issued a statement condemning the violence at the U.S. Capitol.

"We will consult with legal counsel on how we may address the community's concerns, consistent with our obligations under the law," said Connie Schlaefer with the Sierra Unified board member.

Those in support of Hoak cited the First Amendment.

Hoak's father also attempted to defend his son.

"It is hard for me to hear people say that about my son, it hurts me," said Jim Hoak.

But one voice was seemingly absent from the meeting.

Hoak was present but refrained from any comment.

Action News reached out to Hoak on Monday night, but has not heard back.
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