Last night Francine Busby, who was last on the national stage when she lost her election for the vacated congressional seat of convicted felon Duke Cunningham, held a fund raiser at a private home, one of many that I had received an invitation to attend.
Having gone to a few of them when she last ran, I have a good sense of the tone of activity, some good conversation, some wine and cheese, chats with the candidate and connecting with like minded people.
Last night was different.
I'll excerpt from the article in The San Diego Union Tribune with my own commentary following.
ENCINITAS — A fundraiser for Francine Busby, who is running for Congress, ended in chaos Friday night when sheriff's deputies responded to a noise complaint, pepper-sprayed some of the guests and arrested the party's hostess.
The catered affair, which included valet parking, was to support Busby's bid in 2010. The minimum suggested donation was $50. Busby, who spoke at the private reception, said the event was "no different" from hundreds of parties and fundraisers that she has attended – except in how it degenerated at the end.
"I have never seen anything like it. Most of the people were stunned," Busby said, adding that there was no music or entertainment.
This is an upscale neighborhood that has had a dramatic increase in home values over the last few decades, so intermixed between the multi-million dollar homes are those still occupied by the grown children of parents who bought the houses for ten grand in the 1960s.
The clash of cultures can be played out across the front yard between educational and economic variations not that common in most communities.
It looks like this sociological conflict may have been at the root of this event.
A statement from Busby's office said a man shouted an "obscenity-laced tirade" from a wooded area as Busby spoke to the guests. It said about 25 mostly middle-aged guests – a lower estimate than the deputies' – were "quietly chatting" when a deputy arrived and asked to speak to the homeowner.
I would guess it was this man, or one of his mentality, who called the police. More interesting is why the police didn't sit outside in their car and determine that this gathering was not a noise violation, and absolutely protected under the law, with an added protection given that this was part of the democratic political process.
From the article, which I suggest you read in it's entirety, so we don't skirt copyright laws, the police walked in with an assumption that what was occurring was unlawful, based on nothing more than an individual's complaint.
Here's a condensed version of the chaotic events:
Deputies first went to the Cardiff home after a neighbor called and complained about the loud party,.... deputies returned later when the party hadn't quieted down..... one deputy asked guest for some personal information, which she refused to give
A crowd of about 30 to 50 partygoers surrounded Barman when he tried to arrest her,..Pepper spray was dispersed on the crowd, and the deputies were able to reach her again. She had recently had shoulder surgery and was clearly in pain. His response was to spray the women with pepper spray which caused confusion and outrage.
While the city of Encinitas, where Busby lives and the fundraiser took place is the mixed community I described, the city contracts out law enforcement to the county, meaning that the deputies (police officers) often work, and are drawn from a different cultural setting.
I've personally interacted in small ways that at times seem trivial to shape this city into being more inclusive, more accepting, keeping the deputies within the spirit of the law. I have a strong sense that what I was considering doing, which was to prevent the enforcement of certain traffic signage laws that were universally ignored, yet had serious penalties, fostered a mentality in the deputies that they could literally punish anyone whom they chose to.
I see it as a continuum. Police are allowed to breach the spirit of citizen based law enforcement in small ways. This has the effect of emboldening them, subtly creating a self image that varies from legal principles. If they can nab anyone who carefully rolls through an isolated four way stop sign with impunity, the belief that everyone is breaking the law is reinforced. This image can grow, metastasize, and then you have an event like this, where they think that their uniform trumps the constitutional right of free assembly.
The article includes this:
Busby said she doesn't think the incident will have any political fallout, and she pledged to continue campaigning at house parties. "I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.
No Francine, this will have political fallout. It will be a wake up call to those like myself who feel that there isn't that much we can do about the status quo in political life, and it's best to stay out of it. Perhaps this ugly event will provide the incentive for me to go to those city council meeting and fight to get a more effective local government for starters.
The term "Quixotic" means the futile attempt to change society. But, when those windmills start to chop people up, tilting at them may not only be rational, but may become a necessity.
Before I wrote this diary I contacted Francine Busby asking if there were any more details. This is her response:
Thank you for asking about our host.
After spending a night in jail, I'm sure she's trying to figure this all out. I have attached my statement. Feel free to use it. Clearly there were political implications that have not been reported yet.
I appreciate you help in getting the story out. It is important.
I don't have a link yet for her statement, but it mostly confirmed what I have in this diary along with the newspaper article. She also suspects that the caller to the police was the same person who was cursing from the woods earlier in the evening.
This link is to a comment page from a local news station. Among the first comments are two from people who claim to have been in attendance. There are also comments from those who place the blame on those in attendance for not following the orders of the deputies.
City of Encinitas noise disturbance codes are found in this PDF file, under section 932.414. Since the complaint was not for amplified or mechanical noise for which there are objective decibel-duration limits, it is basically a judgment call by the law enforcement officers based on the criteria described.