Baxter’s New Fullerton!


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Yesterday morning, as I always do on the first day of the month that I find myself in Fullerton, I went to the newsstand out back of the Salt and Pepper Restaurant and picked up the latest copy of what Bushala’s blog derisively calls “the yellowing Observer.”  The Fullerton Observer has been dismissed rightly in recent years as a pale shadow of its former self, a mouthpiece for the town’s timid old establishment liberals who tend to fear change, and mostly resisted Fullerton’s recent revolution.

Fullerton rebels at Yuletide: Baxter at table, Bushala at piano.

So it was surprising and refreshing to see the cover story by my friend Stephan Baxter, entitled “A New Fullerton.”   Baxter is one of the more outspoken FIGHTING liberals in town, and a big leader along with Jane Rands and Matt Leslie of the “left flank” of the revolution.  I thought, yes, I like this new Fullerton where the Republicans  are now typified by Bushala and the Democrats and liberals are typified by Stephan Baxter.

His story, which he’s given me permission to reprint below, tells of how he watched two exemplary Fullerton cops deal with a dangerous homeless guy situation in a way that was like the opposite of the Kelly Thomas murder.  He goes on to say that he opposes disbanding the Fullerton Police Department and outsourcing the job to the OC Sheriff.

Here he appears to differ from Bushala and the council majority who are at least “looking into” the latter.   (Evidently it would save a lot of money.)   But meanwhile I know that Jane and Matt are laying the groundwork for a citizens’ oversight committee – something that’s sorely needed in most OC towns, but is always fought viciously by police money.  I’ve got no inside knowledge but, hm, could we be closing in on this ultimatum:  FPD accept oversight or be disbanded?  That would be brilliant.

Other stories in this new issue of the no-longer-yellowing Observer discuss the successes of Baxter’s recent projects:  the Kelly Thomas Art Exhibit which raised $10,000 for the homeless, and the wildly successful free concert in Kelly’s memory featuring The Adolescents.  So here’s Baxter:

A New Fullerton

On Saturday July 7th, I stopped and had lunch with a local artist at a restaurant on Harbor Blvd right before the Kelly Thomas Memorial Concert was starting. As we were finishing up I noticed that a patrol car was parked in front blocking traffic on Harbor, and that a somewhat delusional man, who by appearance seemed to be homeless, was being asked to return to the sidewalk. The man’s behavior made him a danger to himself and perhaps others, so the police had every right to detain him. A witness told me that he was walking into traffic, getting angry at cars, and bothering others who passed by. I went and sat down about 10 – 15 feet away to see how this encounter would unfold. The cops did not look pleased that I was watching, but they also did not tell me to move away. Had they done so I would not be writing the following.

Officers Bridges and Gibert deal professionally and courteously with deranged homeless man. (Photo Josue R. Fotography)

The suspect did not cooperate initially, but they got him to calm down by speaking softly and they did so without making any threats. Despite his outward appearance, and incoherent responses, they treated him with the same respect all of us should expect. There were no insults, and they did not toy with him the way Manual Ramos and Joe Wolfe had a year ago with Kelly Thomas. Soon several others from the concert ran over to see what was going on. Since we were holding a concert in response to an encounter between Kelly Thomas and six police officers a year previous, one which had far less probably cause than this one, and one which led to Kelly’s murder, it was very strange to see this now. Our group, which now numbered about 5, did not say anything and we stayed out of the way. In turn the officers this time did not tell us to mind our business or we would be arrested as they often do.

What we saw were two professionals doing their job, and doing it well. No one got hurt and the man was detained, as he should have been. Hopefully he got help, but if all they did was arrest him, at least he was no longer trying to fight traffic.

Frankly, it was good for us, those who are so close to the Kelly Thomas murder, to see that we cannot paint all Fullerton cops with the same brush and hope to be taken seriously. if one is as critical as I am about the police when they act like thugs, and if I am to be credible, I need to acknowledge when our police act like professionals in what was a very tenuous situation. From the officers perspective, having to perform this job, several hundred yards from where a Kelly Thomas concert was about to get started, was probably not the most comforting thing either. The officers in question, those seen in this picture are Corporal Eric Bridges and officer Tim Gibert, and on this day they were a great example of how we hope all Fullerton officers will one day be. If they act like this all the time, these officers will benefit from the FPD reform and a new leadership as much as the rest of us.

I speak only for myself, and not anyone else involved in the Kelly Thomas case, but the above goes to a greater point, and that is that I do not wish to have our policing outsourced to the Sheriff’s department as some are suggesting. The following would satisfy me, and I believe many of us who are now involved in seeking justice for Kelly.

  1. I want the six officers involved in Kelly’s murder fired and prosecuted, Ramos, Wolfe and Cicinelli for murder.
  2. I want any ranking officer that saw the video tape long before we did, and then did nothing about it, removed from office, as they do not have the public’s best interest in mind. Their loyalty is only to the department, not to those they serve, and we can’t have a fresh start while they remain in office.
  3. I want the council to find ways to lessen the power of the police union, and to not roll over during the next contract negotiations. Under the current contract and the Police Bill of Rights it is now virtually impossible to hold out of control officers accountable when the union, and the contracts with the union, are so corrupt that dangerous that officers are allowed to continue to patrol before the blood on their uniforms is dry.
  4. I want Kelly’s name cleared and I want former spokesperson Andrew Goodrich to correct any errors from his first press conference he made regarding Kelly Thomas. Kelly was not the aggressor, Kelly did not break into cars. Then I want him to resign or be fired of obstructing justice.
  5. I want professional officers, which Bridges and Gibert seem to be, to feel secure in their jobs and to continue to treat everyone, witnesses, suspects, and especially the homeless, with respect. They should not be worried about their jobs being outsourced to another agency.

To me the “Justice 4 Kelly” movement is not about vengeance, it is about holding criminals accountable and removing the magic immunity of the uniform. This is the first time any officer has been so much as charged, EVER, and that puts all cops on notice. “Justice 4 Kelly” is about validating Kelly Thomas as a citizen and a human being deserving of all the same rights and recourse any of us enjoy. “Justice 4 Kelly” was and is about changing the dismal direction Fullerton plotted along on over the last 20 years, were developers and the police union set the corse and we all took the same cruise to ruin. We are fighting to ensure that the 20 year run of Fullerton’s ignorance and greed comes to an end.

Crowd at "Art With an Agenda" exhibit, with Jesse La Tour

We organized an art exhibit called Art With An Agenda, which focused on the life and murder of Kelly Thomas on Friday July 6th, and well over a thousand Fullertonians passed through PÄS Gallery and Magoski Art Colony to experience it. The following day hundreds more turned out for a Kelly Thomas memorial concert, clothing and food drive for the homeless.

When over a thousand residents turn out and are willing to wait in a line that at its peak stretched down a city block to enter an art exhibit about Kelly Thomas, and $10,000 is raised in one night in art sales contributed by local artists , all of which is being donated to the Kelly Thomas Memorial Foundation, and the response is almost uniformly a positive one, it is my belief that we have turned the corner and that we are now entering a NEW Fullerton.  A post-Kelly Thomas Fullerton, where one’s political affiliation is secondary to doing the right thing.

In this Fullerton corrupt developers, polluters, immigrant haters, homophobes, and those in or out of uniform who use power, be it physical, political, or monetary, to abuse and bully those who have very few resources or their own, are on notice. We will not tolerate you. Artists, musicians, activists, educators and like minded individuals from across the community have now staked a claim and we will ensure that Fullerton will be known not as the killing ground of homeless men, but as a community that is creative, loving and free of bigots, bullies and swindlers. In this NEW Fullerton, thugs like Ramos, Wolfe and Cicinelli will not be tolerated by their peers and fellow officers. In turn members of law enforcement, who behave like Eric Bridges and Tim Gibert did on July 7th, will be championed.

By demanding Justice 4 Kelly, by policing ourselves, by committing altruistic acts, by fostering artistic expression and most importantly, by being fearless and NEVER giving up until our goals are met, we give birth to this NEW Fullerton. Ride the wave with us, or drown when it comes down on you. Your choice.

Respectfully,
Stephan Baxter
www.artwithanagenda.org

[LOL.  No, seriously, laughing out loud.  At the lines (like that last bolded one) that the yellowing Observer removed. – ed.]

Crowd at Kelly Thomas Memorial Concert

O Brave New Fullerton, that has such people in it.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.