Howard H. Gething: Democracy in action?

Activists assemble outside of Santa Clarita City Council chambers on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Crystal Duan/The Signal

Last night, I attended the Santa Clarita City Council meeting. The meeting was to vote on a resolution to opt out of SB-54, the state “sanctuary cities” law. Over 300 people attended the meeting, and over 140 of them spoke before the Council.

While I have my own opinion on the law (a resultant manifestation of a larger problem), I attended the meeting to observe for myself grassroots democracy in action. What I saw was a bit surprising.

The resolution advocates were obvious. Trump supporters who were wearing red hats, waving flags, and holding signs, had arrived early, to cluster herd-like at the front of the Council chambers. Many supporters appeared to be on a first name basis with council members. Those opposed to the resolution found themselves seated at the back of the room.

It was an excellent strategy on the part of the resolution supporters, for it placed them in direct line of sight with the council members and to intimidate those opposed to the measure when they came to the podium to speak. Indeed that happened. Cat calls, heckles – some derogatory – and flag waving interrupted speakers who opposed the resolution. Only once did a Sheriff’s deputy confiscate a sign; others ignored the chair’s admonitions not to interrupt.

As could be expected, there was much cooking the books statistics-wise – on both sides of the issue. But from the beginning it was obvious the appeals of those opposed to the measure were falling on deaf ears. By midnight, they had started to fade into the night. The meeting’s end reminded me of the saying – “Of course we will give him a fair trial, and then we’ll hang him.”

It was not democracy in action, but mobocracy, and five small town politicians acted like small town politicians.

Howard H. Gething is a Santa Clarita resident.

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