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[Editor's Note: Duane Roberts, a long-time occasional writer for this blog, gave permission to those who read this Facebook post of his to repost it wherever they liked. (He may not have expected it to end up on OJB, but I presume that he won't mind.) I think that it's interesting enough to justify broader dissemination, so I'm posting it here under his name, along with some of his responses to others' comments. This will be part of a series analyzing what has worked in this protest -- and what hasn't.
Duane and I have had our share of arguments, laid out for all to see, on this blog. When we've met in person at Occupy events, though, we've generally gotten along -- electoral politics aside. He has a long enough history in protesting that I give a lot of credence to his views about strategy and tactics. - G.D.]
BRIEF REPORT FROM INSIDE ANAHEIM CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS
As a 40+ year resident of Anaheim and a longtime critic of police brutality and misconduct, I went to Tuesday night’s meeting of the Anaheim City Council with the intent of speaking during public comments regarding the latest flurry of officer-involved shootings.
I arrived there with a friend shortly after 3:30 p.m. because I wanted to make sure we both got seats inside Council Chambers. I suspected that it would be flooded with people, and was right. The local building trade unions were holding a demonstration in front of City Hall at the time I got there and a number of their members later entered and filled up every seat that was available.
When Mayor Tom Tait began the meeting around 4:40 p.m., a number of anti-police brutality protesters started shouting near the glass door entrance to Council Chambers. Visibly irritated, Mayor Tait temporarily recessed the meeting and Anaheim Police officers equipped with riot gear started to enter the room. It was incredibly surreal to watch police officers equipped with helmets, batons, and pellet guns parade back and forth inside Council Chambers. They would march in from a rear exit leading into Council Chambers and then go directly into the lobby, where they were trying to push anti-police brutality protesters back outside who were loudly demanding to get in. They sometimes would go back out the rear exit, then return again.
(Although I’m not defending the city’s actions in keeping people out, because every seat in Council Chambers had already been taken and many people were standing against the wall, the fire marshals refused to let any additional people in, citing risk of fire and other hazards. This has occurred before at many previous meetings of that body when the room was packed.)
After the lobby was cleared of chanting protesters by riot police, Mayor Tait then resumed the meeting. Although the meeting at first strictly followed the agenda, it stayed on public comments for the rest of the evening. Aside from myself, there were quite a few people during public comments who spoke critically about the Anaheim Police Department and the recent shootings.
Several times during the meeting, Mayor Tait held five minute recesses, I assume to keep abreast on events that were occurring on the streets outside Anaheim City Hall. He and other members of the council appeared to be shaken by what was going on. Some of them looked like they were in daze.
Although there were many items on the Council Agenda, Mayor Tait decided to cut the meeting short and continue them to a future date.
When I exited Anaheim City Hall, there were dozens of riot police surrounding the building and the adjacent parking structure. There were police cars with flashing lights everywhere.
It was a truly bizarre experience.
In response to questions from those on this Occupy movement page, Duane wrote:
Given my past involvement in anti-police brutality demonstrations and protests, I did feel kind of weird being *behind* the lines of a police riot squad. As you know, most of the time I’ve always stood in *front* of them. But in this circumstance, I thought I would be more effective being inside Council Chambers since quite a few people at Anaheim City Hall still know who I am.
I’ve dealt with Mayor Tom Tait since he was a City Councilman many years ago and I have never seen him so visibly upset at a public meeting before. It was apparent to me that the protests that were taking place outside Anaheim City Hall last night were quite distressing to him.
UPDATE: When I wrote this brief report 10 hours ago, I forgot to mention that Mayor Tom Tait did deviate from the Council Agenda slightly by making comments about the shooting and the “civil unrest” that was occurring. He also had the Council pass an emergency resolution asking for federal authorities to conduct investigations.
I can only imagine how panicked that the Anaheim Chamber Commerce and the Walt Disney Company are right now over the “civil unrest” that has occurred. Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry here in Anaheim and images of police officers clashing with protesters just a stone’s throw away from the “happiest place on earth” are being broadcast globally. If people everywhere from Tokyo to Miami to Paris think it’s unsafe to bring their families here on vacation, they’ll spend their money elsewhere.
I don’t know how familiar you are with how municipalities like Anaheim are governed, but the Mayor and the City Council have no power to fire public employees because of civil service protections.
But they do have the power, however, to fire the Police Chief, the City Manager, the City Attorney and others who oversee these departments in a management capacity