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I will never understand the stupidity that so often accompanies selfishness.
There were thousands of horns “excessively horning” and hundreds of people who stood, yelled, and sang in solidarity in downtown Fullerton on Saturday. I’m grateful for that. Saturday’s protest in Fullerton was covered by nearly two dozen local and micro media outlets. In every single one of them, the main discussion focused on protesters turning violent, the number of arrests, or the PD’s response to what can only be labeled as intense stupidity on behalf of a few abnoxious a-holes who ruined it for everyone.
Not one outlet focused on what’s next for Fullerton. No discussion on Civilian Oversight, no discussion on a permanent year-round multi-service homeless shelter, no discussion on reforming POBRA . . . nothing discussing exactly what’s changed since July 5, 2011, what’s working, what isn’t working, and what’s left to be changed. Just lots of pictures of idiots in masks. One even throwing a chair.
There were a million opportunities to influence through the media by the time Sunday morning rolled around. Instead of seizing it, we squandered it. What’s worse is that those in the community who oppose any sort of effort to affect change got what they needed most: Empathy, and a whole lot of it.
A lot of folks in Fullerton have put in blood, sweat, and tears to make a case for positive change over the last two and half years. Their time away from their family and their jobs often came at a high price. To top it off, change was never guaranteed.
I’m not sure how simply I can state this: Making something good out of a man’s brutal death is extremely difficult. It’s hard to get people informed of the issues. It’s harder to get them to agree with your take on things. It’s even harder to get them to want to contribute, and it’s damn near impossible to get them all to fight for the same cause at the same time in the same way. We (I use the term “we” very loosely) don’t have any money, it’s not like we have a steering committee that sets goals for the group, and the folks who don’t agree with us have both.
The very last thing we (again, “we” loosely) need is to spend what little time and effort we have separating ourselves from jackasses who think it’s a great idea to spray-paint windows at the Slidebar and deface the police station. I don’t have time create an identity separate and distinct from Guy Fawkes. I really don’t. There are too many people on the Left who refuse to do anything and too many people on the Right who, well, think things are just fine. I don’t have time to deal with you.
So, if you are or you happen to know the idiot I yelled at who was blocking my car on Harbor Boulevard around 1:00 on Saturday, here it is again: You’re not helping. We’ve been working at this too long and too hard so you can come down here on a sunny Saturday afternoon and keep your back to traffic while wearing your black “I <3 my face too much to show it” bandana because you think it’s cool to piss off The Man. You want to come and express your solidarity? GREAT! Go stand on the curb and be grateful that no one dressed in black uniform is beating your black bandana into your 19 year old face with the business end of a taser.
Justice for Kelly isn’t about you. It’s not about us, either. It’s about trying to fix something that’s seriously broken and we can’t do that if you’re going to alienate the people we need to help us affect real long-lasting positive change.
That 70 year old woman you just accosted for not honking? She’s the person who I need to call Jennifer Fitzgerald to get her to understand that Civilian Oversight is something that’s wanted by the community. You just made it harder.
That 40 year old man with the two kids you just mocked for not getting out of his car? He’s the person I need to call Doug Chaffee to get him to follow through on building a homeless shelter this year. You just made it harder.
That 17 year old girl you chased away in front of FJC? Well, her Dad works for Sharon Quirk-Silva in Sacramento. I need him to fight for reforming the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights. You just made it harder.
That business you threatened to boycott? The owner sits on the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce. I need her to call Jan Flory to demand decriminalizing being homeless in Fullerton. You just made it harder.
We have a lot of our plate. We don’t have time to be selfish let alone stupid. Instead, let’s talk about “what’s next”, particularly on Tuesday. It’s what we should have been talking about all weekend.
CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT– Fullerton lacks any direct connection between its citizens and its law enforcement officers. Policy making and internal investigations are completely closed to the public. How can we reasonably expect law enforcement officers to uphold the values and expectations of the community if the community does not have an active role defining what best suits its identity? Citizens ought to have the right to not only influence policy, but the right to investigate and resolve serious breaches of the public trust. Civilian Oversight is a direct response to “See these fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up.” That can’t happen again.
A PERMANENT YEAR ROUND MULTI-SERVICE SHELTER– Kelly Thomas didn’t die from exposure or hunger, but the condition of dozens of individuals in downtown Fullerton requires daily interaction between the homeless community and the Fullerton Police Department. The FPD is a law enforcement agency. While it may possess some social service capacity, it is not equipped (nor should it be) to be the primary care response to Fullerton’s permanent social crisis. A year round multi-service shelter provides a better (and cheaper!) solution that more completely addresses an obvious need in the community.
REFORM THE POLICE OFFICER’S BILL OF RIGHTS (POBAR)– Cops shouldn’t be fired for political reasons. We all get that, but we need a better balance. The public has a right to understand who is carrying a badge and gun in the community. I’m not going to claim that Manuel Ramos had a history of badgering homeless, had threatened and even struck a few in the past . . . but if he did, how would we ever know about it? Would that knowledge have been material to the jurors during their deliberations? Because of POBAR, the jury would never see it. I concede that POBAR reform is complicated, but it can be done in a way that appropriately limits political or retaliatory officer discipline while respecting the public’s right to know who is authorized to respond with lethal force in the community.
DECRIMINALIZE HOMELESSNESS IN FULLERTON– Until we have a shelter in place, citing individuals for sleeping outdoors is simply inhumane. Quite frankly, I find it absurd that sleeping . . . a necessary function of the human condition . . . is more illegal in Fullerton than bashing a man’s face to hell with a taser. You should, too.
Let’s get to work, Fullerton. Don’t get distracted. Change is hard, but we have every reason to keep fighting.