Sacramento is a place of contrasts. There are the contrasts between a tiny, city block square central park and Wall Street. There are the contrasts between the feral homeless and the long term unemployed.
There are the contrasts between those protestors and troubled individuals who hate the police because they deal with the police on a regular basis and not in a pleasant way. Most of Sacramento, which is commonly quite happy with the police force, supports the police; while there can be a dicey relationship with the Sheriffs department.
Sacramento is a place of social contrasts, where the richest man in northern California can live in the same neighborhood as a person who depends on Section 8 housing support.
Sacramento city and county is a place of political contrasts where the city itself is a determinedly Democratic and union positive district, but the surrounding counties offer support to some of the most rabid right wing and extremist politics and criminals in the nation.
This morning, CésarChávez Park was sparsely populated by a few lethargic and tired people. The unofficial organizers, about 16 of them had been “arrested” for violating the park’s rule for not being in there after hours.
The rule is designed to keep the homeless from making the park into a permanent settlement, but there are no provisions that allow an exception for protestors.
I met two gentlemen who said that they needed JOBS! That’s it for their main concern. But both were more than capable of discussing all sorts of public policy debacles and conspiracies that began with the Clinton Administration and continue through the Obama Administration.
While there is very broad support for a leaderless occupation, where one individual or group is calling out the orders, there was much appreciation for those who were scheduling, guiding and managing events like the march to the city jail.
Word was that some very well known and experienced California union, social activist and other protest organizers were behind the César Chávez Park occupation happening at all.
A couple of union organizers had a novel concept for unionizing: all employees are in the same union. This makes sense. As an airline management level employee, I discovered that the divisions between workers allowed the pilots, flight attendants and mechanics to get their perks while the rest of us were screwed. At one point, we were considering starting a management union.
I talked with a Sacramento police sergeant, and let me tell you, it took uncharacteristic boldness on my part. It was a major breakthrough for a citizen journalista!
I asked the sergeant for a statement that the public could use when dealing with the occupation or when planning to join the events. I wanted a public safety statement.
Someone on MSNBC demanded that we ask the police about their job satisfaction. This talking head expected us to engage in the belligerent salesmanship that old party apparatchiks love to engage in. I hate that kind of useless banter.
The man knows what his work issues and ailments are, and did not need to tell me about them. Nor did I need to proselytize to the dude.
He gave a well prepared statement that began with “Keep it peaceful”. That was pretty good. It was a simplistic statement in the way that soldiers and public officers speak, but the concept is enough to deal with California’s propensity for minor disputes that can easily turn in to shootouts at the “NOT OK Corral”.
The main concerns relate to the location of the protests. The north and south boundaries of César Chávez Park are downtown Sacramento’s major freeway accesses and traffic routes. Nobody wants their freeway access messed with when getting out of downtown Sac.
You have to BE one of us to know what that means.
If protesters block the streets or engage in disputes with drivers, then California’s spectacular and unique species of road rage could turn into a gun control problem.
Most Sacramentans are also well aware of the possibility of trouble at night when our very special “youth, substance management, and mentally ill movements” can turn Sacramento streets into battle zones. Any gathering or event can become a magnet for the dark forces in our society.
As a result, the next two or three days will determine if Sacramento can provide enough public safety for a continuing occupation of our beautiful park that honors one of our nation’s greatest labor leaders.