The Los Alamitos City Council formally passed a city ordinance voicing opposition and a choice to “opt out” of enforcing the California Values Act which went into effect on January 1, 2018. As it did a month ago, the measure passed by a 4-1 vote, with sponsor Warren Kusumoto, Mayor Troy Edgar, Shelley Hasselbrink and Richard Murphy voting in the affirmative.
The lone dissenting vote came from councilmember Mark Chirco who expressed that he was in agreement with much of the ordinance, but it went too far and could expose the city to unnecessary litigation and high legal fees.
His argument found favor with Murphy who proposed that his own motion that staff be allowed to more fully study the issue and come back to council with other options. The motion failed for lack of a second.
The council didn’t begin their deliberations until after four hours of public comment, with 99 speakers voicing their support or opposition to the measure. The vast majority of speakers were not locals, but activists from both sides (including paid pro-sanctuary activists, primarily young Hispanics, who arrived by a bus around 3:30). Others were “sanctuary issue regulars” who have been going from meeting to meeting espousing their own viewpoints, much of which are being made on emotion rather than any facts judging by the misinformation being consistently cited last night.
The real story of the day was not the council decision — which was no real surprise — but the circus atmosphere outside the council chambers — a close glimpse at the reality and dysfunction of modern-day politics where actual honest discussion of an issue takes a back seat to pre-planned political fringe politics.
Pro-Sanctuary activists from Los Alamitos Community United, a recently formed pro-sanctuary coalition started gathering at 11:00 am yesterday in front of City Hall. Their group, which included a number of locals, was especially well-organized as they arrived — some with cases of snacks, others with cases of water. At 2:30 group organizers conducted a “protest etiquette” meeting with their troops — advising them of answers to say to media and to be polite. Their sincerity was soon overwhelmed with the arrival of a busload of paid activists who exited their bus on Katella in front of the Chamber of Commerce around 3:30. As a group they marched towards council chambers where a large number of hot, boxed pizzas awaited them.
Anti-sanctuary activists began arriving about the same time as city officials were setting up chairs and additional speakers outside so those who could not make it inside would be able to clearly hear the proceedings. By now the local police presence had been augmented by contingents from Seal Beach, Cypress and Fountain Valley — and the emergency operations truck. Fortunately, their use of any real force was not necessary — perhaps because their numbers were so visible. But for the most part, the police made no effort to prevent the more absurd elements of democracy from playing out.
For a short while, especially after the arrival of the television media cameras, there was a battle of bullhorns as both sides tried to make their presences known to passing rush-hour traffic on Katella Avenue. By 4:30 the pro-sanctuary side seemed to be led by two activist groups in particular — Resilience OC and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance — which took control of the noise battle as a Latino band set up their instruments on the grass area south of the sundial. In between very well-played songs like La Bamba and “Guantanamera” and others in a catchy norte/zydeco vein, their amplified microphones voiced provocative and confrontational chants (“Hey hey ho ho, ICE has to go!”, “Say It Loud, say it clear, Immigrants Are Welcome Here”, “Up, Up with Immigration, Down Down with Deportation”) and even some epithets decrying the perceived racism and bigotry of the anti-sanctuary partisans. Needless to say, the recipients of the comments (primarily fervid Donald Trump supporters with clothing and banners visibly announcing their support of the President) did not take them without verbal comments of their own through their own bullhorns which distorted most of what they were trying to say. There was some deliberate in-your-face confrontations staged for the media cameras, but for the most part, both sides behaved reasonably well.
The noise could easily be heard across the street in Rossmoor where residents on Ruth Elaine lamented on social media that their street, which isn’t even in Los Alamitos, was being used a parking lot by the buses and protesters.
The exterior noise level did not drop until well into the meeting. The weather, pleasant and mild while the sun was up, got very cold as darkness fell. By then the band had left, as had many speakers after they made their comments. By the time public comments ended around 10:30 all that were left were primarily the hardcore activists — some (but not all) of the obnoxious variety who do not serve their sides well.
After the vote, and after the last news van left, the remaining pro-sanctuary activists, almost all in their late teens and early 20s, huddled in the city hall parking lot. After some post-event exercises and drum-laden chants from the experienced Resilience OC organizers, the local organizers thanked the outsiders for their support and enthusiasm. After an obligatory spontaneous break to shout “shame shame” at the departing councilmembers, the “veterans” promised that “someone was going to get sued,” then made sure that everyone had rides home (apparently a majority of the outsiders were from Anaheim) and made sure nobody walked to a car by themselves — “remember, use the buddy system!” By midnight the group broke up, the last of the police had departed, and the only people left were some members of the city’s’ audio-visual crew packing up the last of their speaker cables and the maintenance worker who began the process of cleaning up the trash which was too much for the few trash containers around the council chamber area.
By 1am normalcy returned to Los Al.