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Council meeting packed for fired 'Gangnam Style' lifeguards

September 18, 2012 |  9:19 pm

The small council chambers at El Monte City Hall were overflowing with about 300 people Tuesday night as residents discussed the firing of several lifeguards for making a video riffing off the Korean pop crossover phenom "Gangnam Style."

The crowd -- many of whom were high-school age -- filled the 100-seat chamber and poured into the hallways. Many were there to speak in support of the 13 lifeguards and a manager who lost their jobs after filming the video at a city pool.

Rodrigo Vega, a senior at Arroyo High in El Monte, came to voice his support for the group. "When I saw the video, it wasn't offensive or vulgar, just teens having fun," he said. "Firing them was a little rash. Maybe talk about it to them before making a decision."

The employees were fired after El Monte officials saw the video, which was uploaded to YouTube in August, and recognized the lifeguards in their work uniform and performing in a city pool. The video is a parody of the "Gangnam style" song that has exploded online, racking up more than 216 million views on YouTube.

By early September, supervisors in the Parks and Recreation Division called the employees -- including the manager, who did not appear in the video -- asking them to review pages from a staff manual about violations of city property before firing them.

Several of those who were fired also attended Tuesday's meeting in the hope of persuading city officials to hire them back.

Alexander Huerta, a 22-year-old student at Cal Poly Pomona, started as a junior lifeguard and has worked for seven years at the aquatic center. "I've invested a decade of my life in this place," Huerta said. "We want to keep working."

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-- Anh Do in El Monte

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