We got our hands on this editorial from CSUF professor Jonathan Taylor after it was rejected for publication by the Fullerton Observer, apparently because they will not run letters in support of or against the recall (unless you pay for an advertisement, that is.)
Well, we have no such limitations. Enjoy!
Liberals and progressives should support the Fullerton recall.
As a longtime supporter of progressive politics and Democratic candidates, I call on all liberal and progressive voters to put party politics aside and support the Fullerton recall.
The reasons are simple. Our nation is undergoing an epidemic of police brutality. More police departments are currently under investigation by the US Justice Department than at any time in history. The excessive force used in the crackdown on the Occupy movement last fall was a wakeup call (for anyone not from Fullerton). The Kelly Thomas killing and the protest movement it has led to and which has its clearest political expression in the Fullerton recall is thus not just a local issue. Communities, activists, and law enforcement agencies around the country are watching the unprecedented non-partisan, grassroots movement against police violence that has seemingly come out of nowhere to directly challenge our rogue police department and city political establishment. Liberals and Democrats can be on the right side of history and support this movement, or they can side with the forces of oppression and resistance to meaningful reform. The choice has never been more clear.
Two main arguments have been put forward against the recall. One is based on a falsehood, the other on misplaced priorities.
The falsehood is that because businessman and blogger Tony Bushala has funded much of the recall effort out of his own pocket, that somehow “Fullerton is for sale” and that Bushala stands to make a sizeable fortune out of this investment. It is wise to be cynical about business influence on politics – take for example former Fullerton mayor, recall opponent, and astounding redevelopment beneficiary Dick Ackerman. But nobody has been able to demonstrate how Bushala’s businesses – which largely restore historic buildings – would benefit financially from the recall. Anybody who has taken the time to talk with Tony Bushala, or to read the blog that he and city council candidate Travis Kiger run understands that what drives their efforts is outrage, not the prospect of financial gain.
This outrage is outrage we ALL should be feeling regardless of party affiliation or ideology. Kelly Thomas was not the first victim of police brutality in Fullerton; I personally have talked with three other individuals, each with a shockingly horrific tale of violent and unjustified treatment at the hands of Fullerton police, and there are countless other victims dating back decades. But the killing of Kelly Thomas is unique in its brutality – it is one of the worst acts of police violence this country has seen, far surpassing for instance the brutality and severity of the Rodney King beating.
The misplaced priority is the idea that this outrage is somehow too much. The recall movement and the street protestors have been referred to as a “lynch mob,” as if the anger and determination for change aroused by seeing Kelly Thomas’s bloodstains on the pavement and hearing his desperate screams and cries as he was literally beaten and crushed to death are somehow “improper.” Members of the community and longstanding local political figures, many of them Democrats, have appealed to a sense of propriety and gentility as a rationale to oppose the recall. This is beyond contemptible. A breach of decorum cannot be compared to brutality, torture, and murder. I am at a loss as to how members of our community can fail to understand this.
Anger is an appropriate emotion when a situation of dramatic injustice is exposed. This anger is being appropriately channeled into a movement which calls for the replacement of the city leadership with ballots, not pitchforks. What better sign of the maturity of a movement could there be? Whether the city council members up for recall were directly responsible for the escalating police violence and brutality that led to Kelly Thomas’s death, or whether they simply failed to respond adequately to the challenges of an out-of-control police department are reasonable issues for debate. What is not debatable is that the entire country, if not the world, is watching a citizens’ revolt against the Fullerton police; that this movement is primarily (though not completely) led by Libertarians and Republicans; and that liberals and progressives are faced with a stark choice: support candidates who promise to clean up our police department and prevent these atrocities from happening again, or support the status quo. Any person who would let partisanship, propriety, or political affiliation dictate their vote at this point in Fullerton is a person without moral backbone or principal. It just so happens that the council members being recalled are Republicans. Were they Democrats, Greens, Communists, Libertarians, Whigs, Black Panthers or Mugwumps it wouldn’t matter – they must go.
Progressive voters need to remember their values. Core liberal and progressive values include support for human rights, social justice, civil liberties, and compassion for the downtrodden. That means we do not tolerate rogue police officers killing schizophrenic homeless men in our midst; assaulting innocent college students for fun; making false arrests to cover their incompetence and violence; arresting and torturing citizens because they showed insufficient respect and the other atrocities that have been uncovered as our citizenry diligently investigates our local police. Last summer I was startled to discover that Libertarians and Republicans, at least the good ones, not only agree with this, they’re actually motivated to do something about it. In fact, they have led the charge, and they deserve our support.
There are many good candidates for city council who demonstrate their unequivocal commitment to the values I mention above, and they are not largely Democrats. Liberal and progressive Democratic voters must work with Republicans and Independents to replace the current city council with individuals who echo the community’s legitimate outrage and demonstrate commitment to true reform.
Professor of Geography
California State University, Fullerton