Friday, September 25, 2009

A mess that could have been avoided

Sparks flew at Tuesday night's city council meeting with a number of residents upset over the Claremont Police Department's handling of the health care reform debate.

Members of the Democratic Club of Claremont rallied around Rudy Mann, who was cited for allegedly assaulting a disruptive participant, Charles Cox.

Andrew Winnick, a DCC member and a Human Services Commissioner, said police should have been aware of a potential threat and called their response a "major failure."

Mann also spoke out at the meeting. He said he was "denied his right to file a complaint against this person who committed this crime against me and against the public."

The police officer who did show up cited Mann for assault but refused to cite Cox for disrupting the meeting. Both men were attempting to make citizen's arrests against each other, but the officer refused to handle Mann's request.

So the officer either showed bias against Mann or simply did not understand how citizen's arrests should be handled. Either case is inexcusable.

Another speaker, Carolyn Gonzalez, President of the Mountain View Republican Club, also addressed the council.
She place the blame on the organizers (the event was sponsored by the Democratic Club of Claremont), calling them "irresponsible" to host the event without any security.

She went on: “[Cox] did stand up. He did shout. He was loud and that is accurate. However what is not being said is that one of the moderators went to him and was poking him in the chest. Physically poking him. He did nothing in response to defend himself. Another gentleman came up, an older man and physically grabbed him. Again, this protester did nothing to defend himself."

I wasn't at the debate, but it seems Cox's whole goal of being there was to draw attention to his pro-life organization, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.

He was annoying enough to get organizers to poke, grab, push or otherwise physically confront him. Then he can file a citizen's arrest and get his name and his organization's name some media attention.

If just one police officer had been there throughout the meeting, perhaps none of this mess would have happened. The officer could have removed Cox from the meeting for being disruptive, and organizers would never have touched him.

Police Chief Paul Cooper argued that the Police Department is not a private security force, and the organizers could have hired police to be there.

But I've been to plenty of protests in Claremont, and there's always a police presence. Why have 3 cops at a rally for peace in Iraq and none at a heated health care debate?

It would have been wise to designate at least one officer to monitor the event. After all, health care debates across the country have erupted into yelling matches and even violence.

The follow-up investigation, the citizen's arrests, the accusations of bias and threats of lawsuits could have all been avoided by sending one officer to the 2-hour meeting.

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