Rain in Sacramento

Today it rained: not a drizzle, but a nice wet rain. By the end of the day, an inch will have been reported. For New Orleans that’s the equivalent of an hour downpour. This is Sacramento. An inch downpour is a day’s activity for our clouds.

 I drove to the shopping center  in the rain. The slouching sounds from the tires on the wet streets and the swoop-swoop  sound made by the wipers blades are music to me. I love to driving in the rain.

Along the main drag to the shopping center, the 60-feet sycamores are budding; the flowering plums – in full bloom, stand on a circular carpet of white petals; and the weeping willows are awaking. The clouds completely cover the Sacramento, casting a white light from the blocked sun rays.

Redwoods line the main drag to the shopping center. Their shapes, forever pointing upwards, display the majesty of this statuesque species.  This is a relative young neighborhood, but the heights are well over 50 feet. They are approaching their maximum height  for the valley floor. Along the coastal strip where they thrive, it is not unusual to point out one in excess of  340 foot tall and over 900 years old.

Typical lays out for redwoods

Returning home, I exit the main drag. The camellias are in full bloom. At my corner the double blossom pink camellias and the single blossom red camellias in my neighbor’s garden enjoy the rain. A few yards away then I am at home. Along my driveway, the double blossom white camellia bushes are burdened but happy. To me, they hail, welcome home.

Along my driveway

An Interview With Office Sean Kennedy, CHP

Officer Sean Kennedy is the Public Information Officer for the California Highway Patrol Capitol Protection Section (CHP).  His charge includes the normal duties of a peace officer and he gives Safety and Anti-Violence presentations in Downtown Sacramento.

I wanted to interview Office Kennedy during the Capitol demonstration on March 5. The events of the day did not permit him the time for such an interview. So I waited until today to get his version of the events of March 5.

I conducted the interview by phone so I have no visual image of him.  However my first question revealed much about this peacekeeper.

I asked, “ How would you rank the March 5th Capitol demonstration among the many you have worked?” He replied,”I give only the  facts – just the facts.”

His speech was classic Joe Friday of the original TV series, Dragnet, a somewhat warmer version of Friday’s, but like Joe Friday, he stuck to the facts with occasional statements on officer safety.

After setting the ground rules, he immediately commenced:

The West lawn demonstration was great, less arrests and positive. There was no violence against officers.  The organizers obtained permits to demonstrate, very little garbage left on the lawn. The demonstrators were respectful of officers and state property. Some arrest but no violence. Officers and demonstrators understood each other’s position.

Without sounding preachy he interjected a thread about officer safety, “We appreciated it when the demonstrators are respectful to officers.”

Then his vocal energy changed, “Rotunda, (The rotunda demonstrators were) not permitted. Dispersal orders given multiple times. Some wanted to be arrested to make a statement.”

I broke in, “How were you able to distinguish the rotunda visitors from the demonstrators?”  “The signs.”, he replied; then continued, “Some wanted to be arrested.”

Without prompting he introduced a rest room incident. “Some wanted to use the rest room. We informed them that they could use the restroom, but they would have to leave afterwards.”

He quickly followed with, “Their goal was not to be arrest but to voice their opinion.”

“Arrest in the rotunda, 74 arrested and 66 cited and released that night. There was no damage to the priceless artifacts( in the rotunda).”

The Officer Kennedy returned to remark about the West lawn demonstration:

I was glad to see the the West Lawn organizers policed their crowd. It makes the officer’s job easier when the demonstrators have people to keep their people orderly. I saw one, dressed in blue jacket, tell a demonstrator who was standing on the planted box, to get down, the person did.”  Standing on the planted boxes in Capitol Park is not permitted.

Officer Kennedy ended his remarks with empathy for the students:

I take classes at night then go home and do my homework. When I get my college bill. I wonder why does it costs so much?”

It is clear to me that Officer Sean Kennedy is one of us. He goes home and becomes a husband, a student, and pays bills –  including college tuition. Sometimes members of the public see peace keepers as aliens. I too was guilty of this myopia, but this man has given me a vision correction. He puts a soul into the word  cop.

Conducted on March 8, 2012

Students Protest Cuts in Education Occupy Movement Return to California Capitol

West Facade of California Capitol

Today Capitol Park displayed its natural beauty. Mature camellias trees were burdened with new blooms of white, pink and red camellias. Below each tree laid a circular carpet of spent camellia petals of the same color as the new blooms.

Capitol Park, the grounds on which the Capitol of California sets, is usually quiet. Today noise from a circling Highway Patrol helicopter waxed and waned that something big was happening. The Highway Patrol, the official guardian of the Capitol, had dispatched an unusually large number of mounted and foot patrols.

Across the street within the jurisdiction of the city, complements from the city first responders stood vigilant. This company of first responders would be prepared for anything that might happen.

Assembled was a large crowd, but the matured redwoods, magnolias and sugar pines on the park’s peripheral hid from street view the true size of this assemblage. The young had gathered to protest cuts in education funding. The other were supporters of the occupy movement.

Students, who traveled as far as 300 miles to protest, wore tee shirts that partitioned them into groups from the same places. Some were in line to enter the Capitol; others conversed within their groups, while others enjoyed the park setting in conversation.

As I approached the Wast Capitol entry, the center of the largest concentration of protesters, the sounds from a tom-tom and an answering snare drum repeatedly voiced an unrest:

Boom, Boom
tat, tat
Boom, Boom
tat, tat
Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.

After a few steps, I was able to read the hand-painted signs lying on the ground. The signs voiced the demonstrator’s grievances as well as the terse protests on their tee shirts. A sample of  the slogans of dissatisfaction read:

Bail out Schools
Not the fools

Don’t let’ em get, away …
Make’ em pay!

Tax the Rich


#1 in Prison Spending
#47 in
 Education Spending

They’d rather incarcerate

Remember the California

Fund education,
Our future depends in it.

Near the West entry of the Capitol a man had just finished addressing a group of students. I identified myself and asked, “Why are you here?” He said, “I am Tim G., a faculty advisor at Los Angeles Mission College (LAMC). I am leading this group of concerned students to advocate for fee reductions and more financial aid.”

I asked him for permission to speak to two students from the college. He granted me the permission then he chose two students: Angie A G. and Lora E.

Tim introduced Angie to me. I asked her the same question. She said, “I am demonstrating to fight for education and against rising fees. I want to help improve the welfare of all. It’s wrong, upsetting: what politicians do.” Angie identified herself as a resident student who plans to transfer to San Francisco State University to become an English teacher.

Then Lora E. approached me. Her response to the same question was, “I have two daughters: one is adopted. They have just graduated. One will go to University of California at Riverside and the other, to the College of the Canyon. I want to be a positive influence on them, but the situation is getting worse to pay for three students.” Lora had recently enrolled at LAMC. After LAMC she would transfer to California State University, Northridge to study psychology.

On the South lawn, was a lone demonstrator wearing a black tee shirt emblazoned with bold white letters OCCUPY SAN DIEGO.  I approached him and identified myself.  He told me that he is  Mike G., a staff member at California State University San Marcos.”  Then I asked, “Why are you here?”

He said, “I am here because I have four children. I want to protect access to higher education, support the MASTER PLAN and give a strong voice against privatization in education.” Mike took a breath and continued, “It leads to profits for politicians and the rich, rather than a balanced education for students.” Closing he said, “This is a great awakening of the sleeping giant. I hope it continues to stir.”

About 6:31 PM the crowd swelled at the Capitol West entrance. State police, in riot gear lined two deep positioned themselves between the crowd and the West entry. A few students were still inside the Capitol which officially closes to visitors at 6:00 PM. After returning home, I learned from a KCRA TV broadcast that the trespassing students were told to vacate the building or they would be arrested.

March 5, 2012