"Demonstration", Updates And CMPD Response
Today, Saturday, August 25th, a group identifying themselves as members of the Newport/Costa Mesa Tea Party, conducted a demonstration on the sidewalk along Fair Drive in front of the Costa Mesa Police Headquarters.
The group, who apparently rallied to the call of Costa Mesa resident and long-time activist Phil Morello, paraded along the sidewalk for at least an hour, beginning shortly after 1:00 p.m. When I left at around 2:30 most of the participants had long-since departed. Morello and a few others remained. The only excitement was a guy in a white pickup truck that twice drag-raced down Fair Drive in front of the Police Department while I was there. Passersby would occasionally honk their horns - I guess in support.
PHIL'S MARCHING ORDERS
Before beginning the demonstration Morello gave them, literally, their marching orders. He said, in part, "These individuals, by whatever actions are occurring, are trying to intimidate and make people change their positions so that they vote in their own best interests instead of the interests of the voters they represent. We can't have that. That's the classic definition of thuggery. So, that's why we're here today. We need to show support and we're not going to put up with it anymore." And off they went...
TWO DOZEN PEOPLE
The group was a mix of Costa Mesa residents and folks from out of town. I spoke with people from Laguna Niguel, Newport Beach and elsewhere. My guess, including estimates by other media folks present, was that it was about 50/50. The total number of participants at any time was around 24, plus a few children carrying flags.
CONCERNED ABOUT RIGHEIMER'S SITUATION
Although the signs expressed a degree of outrage, the demonstration was quite calm and civilized. The folks with whom I spoke were uniformly concerned about the recent event that caused Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer to be asked by a member of the Costa Mesa Police Department to take a field sobriety test on his front porch. Some folks were more aware of the facts than others. Some had no clue - they just responded to the call for action. Some agreed with Righeimer's statement that he had been "set up", while others withheld judgment until the facts are known.
The group "Oath Keepers" had a small contingent on site. They stood at the corner of Vanguard Way and Fair Drive with a banner, shown below. From time to time one of their members used a bullhorn to shout, "Costa Mesa Police Officers, Honor Your Oath! Your Oath Is To The Constitution, Not To Unions!"
OC GOP CENTRAL COMMITTEE REPRESENTED
I spoke with many of the participants over the hour I was there. One of the organizers was a fellow named Bill Dunlap, from Newport Beach. He's a member of the Orange County Republican Party Central Committee and espoused a broader concern - a national view of this situation. He left early to mow his lawn.
It was clear that this was a hastily-organized event. The signs were hand-made with a certain degree of lack of precision. The most provocative sign I saw was the one Morello was carrying, tightly snuggled up to an American flag. The photo of that sign is below.
NO OFFICIALS ADDRESSED THEM
To my knowledge - at least while I was there - nobody from The City, nor the CMPD, addressed the group. A conversation with a lieutenant on duty at the time led me to believe no contact with the group was planned as long as they demonstrated peacefully and lawfully.
SKIMPY MEDIA COVERAGE
Only the Daily Pilot was there to represent the "real media". You can read Serna's report HERE. No television nor radio crews showed up while I was there. One local gadfly showed up before the event commenced, took one or two photos, then left after about five minutes without speaking with any of the participants. Facts never seem to get in the way of his opinions on his blog.
HUNTINGTON BEACH CHOPPER PAID A VISIT
I don't know if anyone called it, but the Huntington Beach Police Helicopter did a fly-by during the demonstration.
I couldn't help but observe the large yellow ribbon tied to a tree in front of the CMPD headquarters, along with the sign honoring Officer Jon Smith, currently deployed in Afghanisan that stood along the demonstrator's line of march.
REGISTER PRODUCED A NEW ARTICLE
In addition to the coverage already provided by the Daily Pilot and the Orange County Register - all of which was linked in my earlier blog entry - the Register posted a new article today, HERE. If the Daily Pilot produces an article covering this event I'll link to it here later.
A SUPPLEMENTAL POLICE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE
Late this evening the Costa Mesa Police Department issued a supplemental Press Release addressing this issue. The text of that message follows:
UPDATE TO PREVIOUS RELEASE. No additional information available at this time. Following an incident reported to the Costa Mesa Police Department on Wednesday, regarding the alleged driving violations of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, an investigation was initiated by the Professional Standards Bureau and the Investigative Bureau, at the direction of Chief Tom Gazsi. The source of the call and the alleged report of inappropriate driving is under investigation. Although the caller suggested the Mayor Pro Tem may have been driving impaired, the responding officer confirmed that Mr. Righeimer was not under the influence. A vigorous investigation continues concerning the motive and nature of the call. The Department anticipates a future review of this matter by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Best Regards, Tim Schennum
WE NEED FACTS - NOW!
There is clearly a lot of tension in Costa Mesa about this issue - appropriately so, in my opinion. Until all the facts are known about this event folks on both sides of this issue will fill in the blanks with their own conjecture and speculation. So many questions, too few answers. The longer it takes to get answers the worse it is for the City. We need to know:
- Why did the man who called 911 do it?
- Was he acting as an employee of the law firm that worked for the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association?
- Who, if anyone, paid him to do it?
- Was he just acting as a "rogue operator", which he apparently has a history of doing during his time as a police officer in Riverside before he left that job under a cloud?
- Is he subject to criminal penalties for reporting Righeimer?
THIS WILL AFFECT THE ELECTION...
This event, in my opinion, has changed the face of the election dramatically. We need answers FAST.