Local council meetings have become a flashpoint for heated debates over the Israel-Hamas war, and after the Irvine City Council decided against formally weighing in, some councilmembers say harassment against them has ramped up.

Councilmember Tammy Kim said she’s felt threatened by comments people have made at recent council meetings and her social media accounts have been inundated with comments in support of Palestine. The Irvine Police Department, she said, is monitoring her social media and patrolling her home.

But there hasn’t been any credible threat that’s been made, according to the Irvine Police Department.

Local activists who are calling for a ceasefire say they too, are unaware of any threats that have been made, and that painting political dissent as “threats” or “harassment” demonizes their community.

Since November, Irvine City Council meetings have gone on for hours, some bleeding into the next day, largely due to individuals taking up a large portion of the meetings to present supporting or opposing views of a ceasefire in Gaza. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the City Council in a 3-2 vote, decided against a resolution that outlined action items city leaders could take to address the divisiveness in the community, instead electing to focus on local matters that directly impact Irvine residents, said Kim.

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The resolution, brought forth by Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmember Larry Agran, did not call for a ceasefire specifically but mentioned preparation of a “city plan to facilitate humanitarian relief … once a ceasefire is in place.”

Councilmembers Kim, Kathleen Treseder and Mike Carroll opposed the resolution because “the conflict in Gaza is not a municipal issue and falls beyond the subject matter jurisdiction” of the City Council, said Kim.

“My stance has been from the get-go: This is not within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Irvine City Council,” said Kim. “But it’s been viewed as: I support genocide.”

During that February meeting, Kim had motioned to focus on local issues, rather than give a stance on the war happening in the Middle East, which she said led to some people saying they would go to her home.

“If I could end the war, I would. But (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu or (President Joe) Biden is not gonna listen to me,” she said.

Her 21-year-old son has also been affected by recent events, Kim said. He’s been receiving several messages from people who ask, “What’s wrong with your mom,” she said.

Lulu Hammad, a longtime community organizer and co-founder of Yalla Indivisible, a local activist group advocating for Palestinian rights, said if anyone is receiving threats from members of her community, she will be the first one to hold them to account.

“That’s a red line we don’t cross because we’re feeling firsthand how it is to be so much under attack that we can’t be defending our people justifying that being done to others,” she said. “But there hasn’t been anything presented to us.”

Hammad said she feels that political dissent and civil disobedience are being conflated with threats and harassment. Comments of “we’re going to visit your homes” weren’t meant to threaten, she said, but to convey that people planned to bring the protest and calls for a ceasefire closer to where the councilmembers lived.

“It wasn’t meant as a threat to her safety, but when those comments were made, I talked to them, and they said they didn’t mean it that way,” said Hammad. “I know that, but I also know the way those comments are going to be portrayed and used against us as a community is going to be negative.”

Kim said there was a pro-Palestinian protest last weekend a block away from where she lives.

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Sgt. Karie Davies, an IPD spokesperson, said as of now, there is no active investigation into any credible threat.

“Given the political atmosphere, there are things that are unkind that people say,” she said. “People are upset and passionate and sometimes that comes out in an angry manner, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a threat.”

“They are not a violation of any law,” Davies said.

But anytime there is a perception that there are threats, the Police Department does a patrol check, she said.

“We’ve been providing safety and security for the council meetings for months now,” she said. “We’ve also provided personnel and staff to the protests happening throughout the city every weekend.”

Patrol checks and social media checks aren’t reserved for city leaders, Davies said, but for the entire community.

Treseder said the police has been patrolling her house and monitoring her social media as well after she expressed feeling threatened by people saying they were going to visit her home. Carroll declined to comment.