"The punishment doesn't fit the crime," said fired lifeguard Michael Roa, according to ABC affiliate KABC. "Termination should have been the last plan of action, but it was the only one taken."
The lifeguards were fired earlier this month after they posted their online video, " Lifeguard Style," showing them in red-bathing-suits swimming and dancing "Gangnam Style," the dance made famous by the South Korean pop star PS.
Nearly 250 people packed the El Monte City Hall as the lifeguards made their case to get their jobs back.
"We just wanted to do it for fun and, you know, to commemorate our summer," fired guard Yvonne Tam told ABC News. "We never thought it would blow up to something like this."
"Gangnam" has received fun parodies on "Saturday Night Live," the "MTV Video Music Awards, the U.S. Naval Academy and even "Good Morning America."
Their bosses at the El Monte Parks and Recreation Division, however, decided the parody was a "clear unauthorized use of city resources, including city-issued uniforms," according to a statement, and fired all 13 lifeguards involved, plus their supervisor.
"I think it's very important that we take a very good and thorough look at what happened so that we can avoid this from happening again," said Mayor Andre Quintero, who has called for an independent review of the situation.
A Facebook page and online petition have drawn more than 14,000 supporters of the lifeguards' reinstatement. Even PSY has come to their defense.
"That's not fair," he told MTV News, adding a direct plea to El Monte officials: "I'm begging you, do not fire [them]."
Once the independent review is complete, the decision on whether or not the lifeguards should be reinstated will lie with the city manager, Quintero said.