Kelly's Army Begged Fullerton City Council for Justice Last Night
Last night, the Fullerton City Council set aside part of their agenda so an overflowing public of more than 300 attendees could speak about their concerns surrounding Kelly Thomas and last Monday's shocking verdict. While everyone who spoke was angry across the board, their concerns ranged from pleading with Police Chief Dan Hughes to bar Manuel Ramos, Jay Cicinelli, and Joseph Wolfe from getting their jobs back to citizen police oversight and how the Fullerton Police Department dealt with Saturday's protest.
Josue Rivas Chief Dan Hughes listening to the public's comments
The meeting began, as all of them do, with everyone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, except "justice for all" was yelled out by the crowd. Things then got underway quickly as Chief Hughes promised the crowd he would not rehire Ramos, Cicinelli or Wolfe. "It's important to acknowledge that the criminal case has no affect on my decisions about their employment," he assured everyone. "I am confident in my decision."
If the three officers decide to appeal Hughes' decision they must meet in front of an outside arbitrator, but it would ultimately be the the city council's decision to give them their jobs back. Hughes did confirm, however, that a federal criminal investigation of the officers who beat Thomas in 2011 is currently underway.
Ron Thomas, Kelly's father and biggest advocate was the first commenter to take the podium. He thanked Hughes for "sticking with his stance on [the officers'] termination," and then addressed this past Saturday's protest. "Don't judge myself or Kelly's army by some of the actions this weekend," he said. Throughout the night, many other commenters reiterated this point: the protest at the Fullerton Police Station was completely peaceful until around 3:30 p.m., at which time some "rowdy kids" that Kelly's Army does not want to be associated with, began tagging and blocking the streets.
Although Kelly's Army disagreed with those actions, none of them believed that it warranted the Fullerton Police putting on their riot gear. "There's a difference between property damage and violence. Violence is not spray paint," one woman yelled. The crowd also complained about the riot police targeting protestors who were doing nothing wrong. It seemed that the citizen journalists who were live streaming the protest from their cell phones were a target for harassment. Multiple people described "undercover cars going around and just snatching people up," after the protest dispersed.
At least three people who were arrested attended the meeting, and two of them recounted an experience where police intimidated them in the paddy wagon, and then took them to a holding cell where an officer told the group, laughing, "I got two words for you guys 'Not Guilty!'
One soft-spoken attorney took the podium and presented it this way: "Don't let the few bad apples take over the whole story. Saturday was beautiful, with only a few outliers."
The evening was colored by passionate and mostly informed speeches, with only two people comparing America to Nazi Germany. And while many Fullerton citizens attended, the meeting also pulled people from South County, Pasadena, and as far as Downey. Several shared their touching, personal accounts of police brutality. One came from a particularly mysterious woman who said that a Fullerton officer recently put a gun to her head, and was taken off duty for it but had no other repercussions.