Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pacific Beach, CA on Labor Day, 2007

Your story about your experience on Pacific beach on labor day, reminds me of a story that happened to me when I was younger. I was in my mid-twenties and was living in an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens NY. I had recently taken in a roommate to help me with the rent. His name was Tom. Tom was a large typical, redheaded Irish guy who had a propensity for drinking. Tom worked as some sort of clerk on Wall Street and I just got a new job driving for a car-service in Queens.

Anyhow, I met an interesting fellow at my first week at work for the car service. He was also a driver but I don't remember his name, but lets call him Rusty. Rusty was also a large redheaded Irishman with a propensity for drinking and he even spoke with an Irish Brogue. I thought of how similar he was to my new roommate Tom. I asked Rusty if he would like to go out with me and my roommate after work for a drink. Rusty was a friendly sort, and eagerly accepted my invitation. He recommended a local Irish pub, and off we all went.

After a short time at the bar, it had become apparent that Rusty had become quite drunk, never-the-less we were all having a grand-ole-time. But then something odd and unexpected happened. It started out when Rusty could not locate his jacket. He searched for it and asked other patrons in the bar, but he came back empty-handed. Then, for some unknown, illogical reason, he accused my friend Tom of stealing his jacket. Of course Tom had no idea where the jacket was and offered suggestions to Rusty as where to look. But Rusty had become quite drunk and quite irrational and now had become convinced that Tom maliciously and purposely stole his jacket. He started accusing Tom, and shoving Tom, in an apparent effort to start a fight. Both men were large, but Rusty was bigger and he was violently enraged. Rusty's shoves at Tom tuned into open handed blows to his chest. Up until now, Tom had been having a good time and was perplexed by Rusty's odd and increasingly violent behavior. Tom tried to defuse the violence by offering to buy Rusty a drink as a peace offering, and offered to help look for the missing jacket. However, Rusty would have no part of that. He was convinced that Tom purposely stole his jacket and was now obfuscating.

The next thing you know is that Rusty had landed a close fisted blow on Tom and was rearing back to finish him off. Although Tom was no “sissy”, he wasn't even mad at Rusty and wanted no part in this brawl, so he blocked the blow and headed for the door. I followed Tom out and we started to walk home , but Rusty had followed us out of the bar and he “sucker punched” Tom, knocking him on his back. Then Rusty pounced on Tom, holding him down with his massive body weight and pummeling Tom in the face with his fist. Tom's face was now very bloody and I was afraid that he would be seriously hurt or even killed by this beating. I didn't know what to do. I was a 135 pound weakling who is afraid to fight. On the other hand, I knew that Tom would never let me hear the end of it, if I let him down and did not, at least try to help him. Rusty was twice my size, and I knew that I had little chance of subduing him. I imagined that I would appear to be no more than an annoying fly to him. But the shame that I would feel by not taking a beating for my friend, motivated me to act. I grabbed Rusty by one of his arms and made a futile effort to pull him off of Tom. Suddenly, Rusty tuned his attention to me. He grabbed my face with his over-sized hand and had me in something that I can only describe as a “Vulcan death grip”. He had his open palm against my face and his fingers were clawing into my eyes. I felt the blood dripping down my face which was paralyzed by Rusty's grip. I struggled to break his grip, but he was like Iron and he did not yield. As I struggled to break free, his grip only tightened and I felt his fingernails cut deep into my eyes. Suddenly and unexpectedly, something positive came from my efforts. While Rusty was distracted by mutilating my face, Tom was able to work his way loose and was beginning to escape. Finally, Tom was free and Rusty loosened his grip on me in an effort to regain control of Tom. We both took advantage of this small window of opportunity and were able to escape and we made a run-for -it.

We both walked home with bloodied and bruised faces. We didn't talk much on the way home. Neither of us could understand Rusty's bizarre and violent behavior. Tom was a big guy, about 180 lbs. But as we walked home in silence, I felt a sense of pride and satisfaction that I have never felt before or since. The scars around my eyes were visible for over ten years, however to me, they were a badge of honor. I knew that although I was still a 135 pound weakling, I proved that night, that I did possess some degree of courage, and I had suddenly felt a closeness to Tom that could be achieved in no other way. I came so close to running away in cowardliness, but I didn't want to feel the shame of “chickening out” and letting my friend down by not making an effort to help him.

Now, you may ask; Why did I tell that story in response to your message about the drunk and rowdy group on the beach that were threatening the police officers, and almost turned into a full fledged riot? Well, first and foremost, it was the only story in my entire life that remotely makes me seem like a hero and I don't think that I have ever shared this story before with anyone. LOL. But more importantly, it taught me that when people get drunk, there is always the risk of unpredictable and irrational violence in which innocent people could get hurt or killed. I had no way to peaceably get out of that situation without being unbearably shamed. I don't know what the Police's motivation was to subdue the crowd with salt blasts and mace. I don't know what the proper police protocol would be in that situation. But it would be asking much of them, to turn and run like cowards. Running would also encourage future disrespect and violence toward police officers which would make their job, all the more difficult and the beach, all the more dangerous, in the future. For whatever reason, when “push-came-to-shove” the police did what they felt they must do and there was no turning back. Luckily, there was a positive outcome, a full fledged riot did not erupt, and only the guilty were injured and arrested.

The fact that you see this incident as an abuse of power by police, only serves to show what your preconceived notions about what the role of police should be. I understand that you saw this situation unfold first-hand, but you have had 20 years of conditioning that is telling you that the police are needlessly brutal and that may have affected your perspective in judging this incident. From all accounts, the police did successfully disarm a potentially dangerous situation. It could have gone the other way also, and a full fledged riot could have broken out, resulting in injuries and deaths to innocent people. These things are unpredictable and illogical. Sometimes “you're damned if you do” and sometimes “you're damned if you don't”. It's easy to “Monday morning quarterback” these situations. But what happened here, is that you had a positive outcome, in which there were no serious injuries or deaths in a potentially explosive situation. The guilty people were subdued and arrested, and a violent mob was subdued in a non-lethal manor, but you still feel that the police acted improperly.

Please compare this with how the Chinese police beat and kill violent protesters in Tibet, or how the Saudi Arabian police arrest and beat women who disobey Sharia law by being seen in public with an unrelated male, or how the police and court system execute or torture homosexuals in Iran, or how corrupt police in Mexico, team up with drug cartels and murder, beat and arrest people who get in their way. Yes, there are many horrors in the world, but what happened on Pacific beach on Labor day is not one of them. We should be thankful that we can enjoy our freedoms while being protected by the most benevolent law enforcement and judicial system in the world. Yes, there are also examples of corruption, overreaching police and police brutality in our nation, but they are the exception, rather than the rule, and they are certainly not endemic in our police and court system. However, if we are deceived into falsely thinking that our police and courts are unfair and “out to get us”, we will become so confused that we will be unable to distinguish between good and true evil when we are confronted with it.

You, yourself were not completely innocent in that situation. You are underage and should not even be on that beach. You should have known about the risk of danger that Pacific Beach posed on a crowded Labor Day. The following quote is from a San Diego News-Tribune article from March of 2004, which predicted a riot on Pacific Beach due to the crowds and the drunkenness.
Rudolf Hradecky, a spokesman for the Sail Bay Association said, "Our concern is that there will be a potential riot. The situation is ripe for a riot, with people shoulder to shoulder, literally, and the drinking is phenomenal."Hradecky said his group is concerned about out-of-control alcohol consumption.
It is not uncommon for young people to “seek thrills” by putting themselves in dangerous situations and then blaming someone else, when something that was completely predictable happens. You were irresponsible by placing yourself in that predictably dangerous situation. Please remember, that when you are in the midst of drunk people, unpredictable, violent and dangerous behavior is always a threat. I'm sure that you already knew that, but the thrill was irresistible. The best thing that you can do is to avoid drinking yourself and avoid being in the proximity of drunk people. I hope that is the lesson you will learn from the situation on the beach during Labor Day.

The police will not always be there to protect you from danger, while balancing on a thin line in order not to trample your civil rights. Conservatism is based on individual responsibility, and not counting on the government to rescue you when you make poor decisions. In the end, you must be responsible for yourself and use common sense to avoid danger in a dangerous world.
I hope that I'm not being too preachy. What do you think?

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