Misplaced Outrage

“Outrage Over Police Shooting Dominates Council Meeting”

So reads the headline of the March 26 Voice of OC article on public speakers who voiced their outrage at last week’s  city council meeting.

To recap the shooting:

  • Two probation officers checking up on a parolee, approached three men in broad daylight near the intersection of La Palma and Citron. Two of the three men ran away. One of those was Robert L. Moreno, Jr., a documented gang member and felon with a violent criminal history.
  • While fleeing, Moreno brandished his weapon at a mother and her young children who were getting out of their car, threatening to kill them if they talked to the police.
  • Moreno was hiding behind a trashcan when K9 Bruno (on a 20-foot leash) found him. Moreno opened fire, hitting the dog.

So, the parade of angry speakers at last week’s council meeting were outraged at Moreno’s callous disregard for life, at his threatening an innocent family with death, at firing his weapon at law enforcement officers – right?

Wrong.

They were outraged…at the police.

Remember – Moreno fled from the police. He threatened to kill innocent people. He fired at the police. Moreno hit Bruno but could have hit the officers or innocent bystanders. This was a guy who had just gotten out of prison. A guy whoafter he was tackled during an arrest in 2011, he told a deputy in county jail that he struggled with the officer to get away, and had “even tried to reach for his gun.” When the deputy asked why he tried to grab the gun, Moreno said, “Because if I did get the gun I would have killed him,” according to court records.”

And yet, in the eyes of those speakers and their sympathizers, the Anaheim police are the bad guys in this incident.

The usual suspects who voice their opinions in these matters have negatively contrasted the outpouring of support for K9 Bruno with what they see as a lack of concern for human life –  in this case, the life of Robert Moreno Jr. The life of a person is worth more than the life of a dog, they complain.

Of course it is. God creates each unique human life in his image. He loves us all equally and desires the salvation of all of us. And He gave us free will to choose between good and evil, and do what we will with the life given to each of us. Lent reminds us that Jesus suffered on the cross and died to ransom everyone from their sins.

But the aforementioned critics ignore the moral landscape of the shooting – which the general public, on the other hand, has no trouble grasping. One side there were law enforcement officers trying to protect the public, and on the other a violent criminal with no regard for human life.  The shooting incident served to illustrate there really are criminal predators in our communities, and the police exist to protect us from them. So, of course, the public will applaud the bravery of Bruno and the police, and rally around the brave K9. It isn’t disrespectful of human life to praise someone – in this case, a dog — whose ultimate purpose is protecting human life.

Robert Moreno Jr. lived a life of crime and violence. His family and friends no doubt see him as more than that, and rightfully grieve for him. But the sad reality is his end was fashioned by the choices he made.

Wrongly Blaming The Police 
Nonetheless, the a procession of speakers cast the police as the villains, several of them accentuating their comments with F-bombs. Genevieve Huizar went so far as to claim the police murdered Moreno (to which a supportive member of the audience shouted “F–k Bruno!).

From those calling for compassion and respect for human life, I heard no concern for innocent bystanders’ lives that were jeopardized by Robert Moreno Jr., no compassion for the police officers who could well have been on the receiving end of Moreno’s bullets had Bruno not gotten in the way.

On the hand, we did see those same police repeatedly condemned as murderers and assassins and pigs by speakers clearly painted law enforcement, rather than criminal gangs, as the primary threat to public safety. We heard calls to “Film the Police.”

We heard a young revolutionary say, “We don’t meant to be violent and aggressive because that’s not where we come from. We’re just trying to change things. but how else are we going to change things when we come with peacefulness and it still doesn’t change?” – which is another way of saying violence is, ultimately, a legitimate means for achieving political ends.

We did hear the Mayor of Anaheim very pointedly assuring these speakers that the police would not retaliate against them for their comments. Think about it: the underlying the mayor’s assurance is the premise that the police are dangerous and lawless. One wouldn’t make such a promise unless one believed Anaheim police officers would seek those speakers out for retaliation. Put yourself in the shoes of an Anaheim police officer listening to group of protesters accuse you and your colleagues of murdering a gang member who directed deadly force against pursuing officers – and then hear your mayor tacitly validate those protesters’ characterization of police of lawless brutal.

Free Speech, Yes; Obscene Speech, No
A final point – and this one about free speech. There has been a great deal of debate in media about what action the mayor (or whoever happens to be presiding at an Anaheim council meeting) can take regarding vile, obscene and disruptive comments made during the public comments. William Fitzgerald has plumbed the depths of such speech, and last week the anti-police speakers further pushed the envelope by adding F-bombs to the council meeting vocabulary.

Mayor Tait and his allies contend the microphone at the podium is “sacred” and speakers should be free to say absolutely anything they want no matter how vile, hateful, obscene or slanderous. City Attorney Michael Houston concurs to the extent of stating his belief the mayor or presiding officer is powerless to stop such behavior. In other words, if someone decided to read from “Penthouse Letters” at every council meeting, nothing could be done about it (except leave the building, especially if you had children with you).

I disagree with that absolutist stance, but concede I could be wrong. But in the case of last week’s F-bombers, that isn’t the most pertinent question.  Everyone at no one at these council meetings knows they are free to publicly state their political opinions, whatever they are.  But when the mayor, painstakingly and repeatedly informs the audience they can say absolutely anything they want no matter how hateful or slanderous, should anyone be surprised when some individuals respond by doing exactly that?  What the mayor intended as an explanation was instead taken as an invitation.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdmuxcWQ15M]

Damion Ramirez’ obscenity-laden rant could be seen coming a mile away.

Free political speech is sacred because it is a bulwark against government infringement of our liberties. At the same time, does it really make sense to measure how free our speech by how depraved or obscene it is? Is it an infringement on free political speech for a city council to tell citizens they are free to come to council meetings and declare “I hate the police, I think they are lawless thugs” but they cannot say “F–k the motherf—-ing police!”?  Shouldn’t responsible civic leadership seek to foster political speech that elevates and informs, not speech that denigrates and intimidates?

21 comments

  1. gabriel san roman

    [blah blah and more puerile blah]

  2. James Robert Reade

    Incessant screaming of vulgar and profane expletives is not protected free speech. Premeditated disruption of the city council meeting is cause for removal from chamber. Period.

  3. profanity has been outlawed even in Las Vegas, and it should be outlawed here also if it is not already. Let JESUS be glorified always in our speech and conduct, and may GOD bring the fear of the LORD on all souls soon. As I street preach I tell people to turn from fornication,homosexuality,lieing,stealing,drunkeness, smoking, gambling,cursing,greed and everything else that destroys the body and soul. Hell is real, and I do hope more people will turn to the light and receive GOD’s forgiveness and gift of eternal life as they turn from sin and follow CHRIST. Satan has so many deceived, and our society desperately needs JESUS and strong Christian leaders who will stand for HIS truth.

  4. Sick of politics

    Matt, you outdid yourself. This is a great read.

  5. Anaheim Avenger

    My question is: how did damion’s “rant” not cross the line into inciting the audience? He was clearly trying to work people up and encourage them to turn on the offices in the chambers. Was there ever more evidence that the mayor has not only lost control, but putting members of the public, not to mention our officers, in physical danger? I hope the ocgop is very, very proud of our legislator of the year. Ugh.

  6. Dan Chmielewski

    The Palo Alto Municipal Code makes it unlawful for any person to:

    Disrupt the conduct of a meeting

    Make threats against any person or against public order and security while in the Council chamber.

    Use the Council Chambers during meetings for any purpose other than participation in or observation of City Council Meetings.
    Any Council Member may appeal the presiding officer’s decision on a decorum violation to the full Council. Decorum violations are punishable as a misdemeanor and may

  7. Nice write up, Matt. But, as is does appear to be my sole purpose in commenting, here’s the critique.

    “Shouldn’t responsible civic leadership seek to foster political speech that elevates and informs, not speech that denigrates and intimidates?”

    No. Responsible civic leadership doesn’t foster speech. It’s not the government’s job to tell a private citizen what is or is not an appropriate way to express one’s self in the royal court. We threw that out, along with feudalism, over 200 years ago.

    Responsible civic leaders listen to the concerns of the people and respond appropriately. They don’t ignore the complaint on the pretence of how it was expressed. It can be eloquent, crude, in broken English, or even perfect Latin– it is the content of the expression that matters, not simply how it was expressed. Government of the people, by the people, and FOR THE PEOPLE.

    In this case, there is a clear and present breach of trust between a segment of the community and those who represent it. This isn’t a question of decorum; it’s a symptom of underrepresentation.

    These folks were elected to do a hard job. It’s time they quit complaining about the gruffness of the peasants and got to work fixing an obvious problem.

    • Matthew Cunningham

      Ryan, what you are saying is that elected officials have no responsibility to be role models. I, and I suspect most people, disagree with your summation of the job of an elected official. I also disagree with your assertion of a “breach of trust” when the segment of the community of which you speak – if that’s how you wish to describe this particular group – distinguishes itself by the incredible, extreme accusations they routinely toss at the police. Unless you agree that every police shooting in memory is an example of murder or assassination?

      • No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I said is that elected officials have no business telling the people they represent HOW or WHAT they should express to their government. This post, along with a half dozen you have written or linked to, claim just that. Being a role model is a completely different issue.

        What are the accusations symptomatic of, Matt? This is the principle problem with the majority. They’d rather take steps to pass judgement and condemn, to celebrate their own achievement, than to take steps to heal and grow together. They do it because they honestly believe they’re better than the constituents they serve.

        It’s why they claim saving a trial is a good thing. It’s why they criminalize being homeless. It’s why they whine about decorum and attempt to supplant their own judgement for that of SCOTUS. It’s why they flip out any time a question to spend massive amounts of taxpayer dollars on non-core government services arrises. It’s why they browbeat to get a 303 word statement accepted as 299. It’s not only that they believe they’re right– they believe the choices they’ve made in life entitle them to the execution of their will.

        Is Anaheim better off by dismissing these residents as you’d like to do? What behavior and decisions are they likely to embrace as a result? Does more isolation and judgement make it more or less safe for a LEO assigned to that area of the city?

        That’s the wrong path, Matt. Quite frankly, it’s not the Christian path either.

        I don’t agree that every police shooting in memory is an example of an assassination. I do absolutely believe that every police shooting in memory contains nothing worth celebrating: It’s a reminder that every barrier society has put in place to prevent loss of life failed, which is a tragedy.

        We mourn tragedy. We don’t pass judgement and celebrate.

        • Ryan, on that homeless measure, the entire council voted for that…Tait included.

        • Matthew Cunningham

          “What I said is that elected officials have no business telling the people they represent HOW or WHAT they should express to their government.”

          In that case, Ryan, I look forward to a comment from you – or maybe even an Orange Juice post – taking Mayor Tait to task for telling people he represents how they should express themselves to their government. When he asks them to be civil, to be kind, to avoid being inflammatory, then he is doing exactly what you say he has no business doing.

          They’d rather take steps to pass judgement and condemn, to celebrate their own achievement, than to take steps to heal and grow together.”

          That’s plain, unadulterated hooey, Ryan. And frankly, given that you and your comrades in arms are in the business of passing judgment by the metric ton, it takes more than a little cheek to level that charge at someone else.

          “They do it because they honestly believe they’re better than the constituents they serve.”

          Oh good grief – what a gigantic load a horse manure. When did you acquire the ability to read minds, Ryan? Or did you overhear a member of the council majority saying “You know, I only do this because I believe I am better than my constituents.”

          “It’s why they claim saving a trial is a good thing.”

          “They”?, Ryan? Who are “they”? Only one person said that – and she apologize for it before it even hit the media. And I thought you said we are supposed to “heal and grow together”? You’re not exactly taking your own advice.

          “It’s why they criminalize being homeless.”

          That’s a sloppy, inaccurate, and inflammatory characterization. I’d expect to hear it from some left-wing “community activist,” but I’m kind of surprised to hear it from you. But if you are going to go there, then include Mayor Tait in “they” because he also voted to prohibit camping in city parks.

          It’s why they browbeat to get a 303 word statement accepted as 299.”

          Browbeat? Get a grip, amigo. Opposing sides argue over ballot statements and ballot arguments all the time. One side wins, the other side loses. The Yes on Measure D side made the better argument and won. Stop acting like the matter was equivalent in weight to Dred Scott.

          Is Anaheim better off by dismissing these residents as you’d like to do?

          For starters, not all those people are Anaheim residents. Damion “F–k the Police” Ramirez doesn’t live in Anaheim. He’s a full-time anti-police protester who travels the state protesting police brutality.

          Anaheim is better off with a reasonable discussion of the matter by reasonable people, and not by having the chambers taken over by people who seek to get their way by yelling and screaming and going after anyone who disagrees with them. And that can’t happen when the discussion is dominated by individuals whose, contrary to all reason and reality, believe that the police are always at fault, that they roam the city looking for young Latino men to execute.

          “We mourn tragedy. We don’t pass judgement and celebrate.”

          Who are “we”? Are they any relation to “they”? Perhaps they can all get together with the straw man holding up that last argument.

          • Matt,

            Stop misrepresenting what a straw man is. You’re (still) using it incorrectly. I’m sure you think it’s cute, but it’s just a sad irony.

            I’ll only address your first point, because it’s the only one worth addressing. The rest of it is just, well, let’s say entrenched in a belief system that I haven’t bought into– but I do appreciate the detailed reply. I don’t often get something thoughtful thrown my way, particularly here.

            You’ve written multiple blog posts attacking Tait for his kindness theme– or more appropriately what you perceive to be its failures. Indeed you’ve attempted to score political points by being unkind to kindness.

            There’s a big fat world of difference between culturing an environment based on kindness and demanding immediate conformance to what boils down to word choice. They’re not the same thing. A real shame you’re trying to get one more point in here attacking that theme . . . a theme that we both know you really believe.

            What you did in the retort is **properly** labeled a straw man.

            How ’bout that. Enjoy.

            –RC

            • Matthew Cunningham

              I don’t think I am misrepresenting it. You have a tendency to stand up arguments that no one is making and then knock them down.

              As for kindness, I have not attacked the kindness campaign. On the contrary, I have reaffirmed my belief in it. What I have done is point out the gap between the talk of kindness and the unkindness that marks Tom’s most fervent supporters. They’re the one who really make a mockery of it, not me.

              • Well, Matt– here’s your golden opportunity. Let’s see what you do with it.

                “Shouldn’t responsible civic leadership seek to foster political speech that elevates and informs, not speech that denigrates and intimidates?”

                If the goal is to promote a culture of kindness and not a knee jerk objection to the form of expression, what is the most appropriate solution for the council?

    • Mr. Cantor, the incessant screaming of vulgar and profane expletives with premeditated intent to disrupt council meetings by criminal street-gang sympathizing propagandists hallucinating on illegal narcotics is not protected free speech and will not be permitted.

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