On Wednesday, a day after his recall election, La’Shadion Shemwell appeared in a Facebook Live video to speak to his constituents. He wore a mask and bulletproof vest, and walked around the sunny downtown McKinney square. Shemwell showed viewers a few of the historical markers in McKinney. In particular, he wanted them to see what’s in the basement of the old McKinney County courthouse: the preserved signs that once designated the segregated bathrooms in the courthouse.
“If I take a stroll around my district, around this square, you’ll see this segregation still exists,” Shemwell said. “It’s not happenstance that I’m only the second elected Black official in McKinney. There is a history to this city.”
Now, that history includes him. Following the Nov. 3 elections in McKinney, voters elected to recall Shemwell. He is the first McKinney City Council member in the city’s history to be recalled.
More than 72 percent of McKinney residents voted in favor of recalling Shemwell, whose three-year term would have expired in May 2021. Unofficial county results indicate that almost 48,000 people voted to remove Shemwell while about 18,000 voted to keep him.
An outspoken activist elected in 2017, Shemwell made a reputation for pushing the city and county on civil rights issues, often clashing with the mayor and other council members. Notably, a year ago in Oct. 2019, he declared a Black State of Emergency in McKinney. As he put it, “I was screaming Black Lives Matter before it was copyrighted.”
Shemwell’s personal history has also been an area of concern; his record includes arrests for felony sexual assault in Collin County and felony burglary of a habitation and aggravated kidnapping in Dallas. He took plea deals for lesser charges, but soon he was once again posting $25,000 bond on a family violence charge and receiving a protective order against him for another family violence issue.
One of Shemwell’s ex-girlfriends appeared before council in late October. She told Shemwell that he should not call himself a protector of Black People. She claimed that she had witnessed his abuse.
“Show yourself for who you truly are,” she said. “You are a man who beats Black women.”
Shemwell, who ran by presenting himself as a changed man, didn’t refute her accusations. Instead he said, “You don’t have to like me, but you’ll respect the work I put in and do in this community.”
On Shemwell’s downtown McKinney tour Wednesday, he discussed the statue of former Confederate general and Texas Governor James W. Throckmorton in front of the courthouse, which is currently the center of controversy in McKinney. In a late October council meeting, Shemwell was furious that the vote to remove the statue wouldn’t happen before Nov. 3. He called the council “a sham.”
The statue, he said, is another sign of McKinney’s racial history. “[Black people] are underrepresented, underserved here. We don’t feel welcome,” he declared. “That they worked so hard to remove me shouldn’t surprise anyone. The shocking thing is that I was ever elected to this position in the first place.”
Shemwell turns the camera to show viewers a downtown building, a former movie theater. On only one night a week—which he says people called “n***** night”—the theater allowed Black people to see movies. “When it was over, they’d chase them back across the tracks,” he said.
Shemwell didn’t address the public about the recall, until he posted the Facebook Live video—and an accompanying press release. He says that while he hoped for a different result, he expected this one.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve this community as well as I have, to be able to walk these streets with my head held high knowing I have not sold out my community,” he said. “Everything I’ve done, every promise I’ve made, I’ve kept. I can walk through these streets … and know my community supports me because I’ve supported my community.”
Finally, Shemwell promised that this is not the last that will be seen of him. Currently, he has a pending lawsuit against the City of McKinney . The lawsuit accuses the city of “violating the Voting Rights Act and racial discrimination regarding its recall election changes.”
McKinney Mayor George Fuller denies that the city did anything wrong. He says that McKinney residents have always had the power to recall a council member, not just the district constituents. He said city council simply extended the time period to submit a recall petition from 30 days to 45 days. Council also increased the voter percentage from 25 percent to 30 percent of previous voters in a municipal election needed to submit a recall petition.
Shemwell might have been recalled from public office, but he is undeterred. “I am in federal court fighting this all the way to the end,” he said.