Tuesday, Oct 25:After spending almost an hour discussing an illegal scheme to transfer even more wealth to downtown hotel owners using taxpayers’ money; the San Diego City Council literally turned tail and ran from the council chambers when a coalition of community groups joined the Occupy San Diego movement in asking council members to support their rights to free speech and assembly within the city.
About 60 citizens marched from Children’s Park just before the 10 a.m. Council session and met up with the several hundred young people camped at the Civic Center Plaza. Ignoring the police demands to stay on the sidewalk, protestors took to the streets the entire route.
Michelle Deutsch, a young woman who was brutally pepper sprayed by an out-of-control police officer on October 14 in retaliation after she had just concluded an interview with a CNN reporter, led a “human microphone” presentation asking that the council adopt a resolution similar to the one recently passed by the Los Angeles City Council in support of Occupy Los Angeles.
Startled and petrified, council members sat perched on their lush chairs and paneled desks high above the crowd, as Deutsch read the request, echoed by the crowd of about 75 citizens in unison voice after each sentence. The roar of words, the emotional cadence, the pure democratic spectacle of a crowd shouting up at these eight puppets of power and wealth was exhilarating. Council President Young looked worried, he had lost his control, his commands could not be heard; while the conservative members almost panicked, terror in their eyes, “is this the future, where the people actually rule” you could almost hear them think. The seven policemen in the chambers just looked at one another, dumbfounded, leaderless, having to endure the assembled citizens’ thunderous demands – as did city staff.
Deutsch, read the appeals, echoed by the crowd, their words bouncing off the walls, “we request that you respect and uphold our rights under the First Amendment,” they shouted. “You took an oath to uphold the Constitution,” the citizens reminded councilmembers.
“Please endorse our peaceful protest action against undue corporate and monetary influence on our government,” they asked, “the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution supporting the LA Protest, we want the same respect here and from you.”
Then the group representing Occupy San Diego informed the council that “if you do not place it [a resolution of support] on your agenda, we will accept this as consent to our protest and make our plans based on our Constitutional rights.” The protestors vowed to continue to “occupy” the civic center plaza and Children’s Park. “We will continue to have a medical tent, food, educational materials and media support,” they said.
After communal voice was given to the request, remembering that this was there second visit to the council meeting to try and get the resolution on the agenda; the frustration of having to fight for their Constitutional rights here in the 21st Century, in front of this political front for San Diego’s oligarchy, burst forth as the crowd erupted into a chant, “Endorse!, Endorse!, Endorse!” and council members freaked, almost tripping over their staff members seated behind them , as they ran for the exit.
Council members nervously reconvened in the afternoon, but not until the San Diego Police Department had staged over 30 police officers in patrol cars, 10 motorcycle cops, a paddy wagon and riot gear vans two blocks away, at Third and Ash. In addition, Deputy Police Chief Boyd Long, the city’s top demonstration/riot control cop, personally took control of the chamber officers to protect council members from the voices of the people.
Only about 30 Occupy folks returned for the afternoon session, while the council relegated the rest of public comment to the end of the afternoon session, allowing the horde of well-paid lobbyists and attorneys who were well-suited, glancing at Rolexes, clutching briefcases full of papers outlining special requests for their wealthy clients to proceed with their power games – the corrupt system of politics continued, protected by the armed might of “America’s Finest.” The citizen’s group was ignored by all eight council members; like an addict overlooks the actuality of his sickness.
As I left the council chambers, the lyrics from one of Patti Smith’s protest songs, kept repeating itself in my head, “I awakened to the cry that the people have the power; the power to dream, to rule – to wrestle the world from fools.”
Video by abbajerry. (Editor: Thanks for being there and recording this)