City Hall rally for public safety creates danger A tense confrontation is diffused

by Morgan Kennedy
guest commentary

“Chico First,” “One Chico,” “Safe Chico,” or whatever this group is choosing to call itself this week had a protest in front of city hall on Tuesday.

photo by Morgan Kennedy
A Trump flag was flown at the so-called public safety demonstration in front of city hall Tuesday.

As a response to a recent escalation in the aggressive language members or supporters of the groups use on social media, some Chicoans – myself included — decided to hold a counter demonstration prior to the City Council meeting.

Most of us arrived shortly after 5 p.m., and their protest — an effort to influence the Council on issues related to homelessness and needle distribution — was well underway. There were throngs of people in highlighter-yellow shirts on the Main Street side of city hall. They had bullhorns, whistles, and a flatbed semi-truck sporting the slogan “save our town.” There was also a large Trump 2020 flag being flown, and several in the group wore MAGA hats or other Trump regalia.

Our group gathered at the other entrance, several yards away from the protest. Safety was a concern from the beginning. They had a much larger group and had expressed in various online forums that they were not happy we would be present. One man posted online in the days prior that “baby food jars full of muriatic acid wrapped in tin foil” should be brought to their protest to use on us. Luckily, this was reported to Chico PD, which took the threat seriously.

For our demonstration, we had agreed to print on large sheets of paper some of the posts from Facebook pages and place them on the sidewalk. The posts were comments that had been made in response to news articles and on the pages of some of the groups that say they’ve formed around the issue of public safety. There have been comments about beating homeless people to death and comments about poisoning and exterminating them. One in particular stood out to me. A commenter wrote, “I told him the good thing about taking you out Is that no one will notice your gone! (sic)”

I hope that nowhere in America is there a place where someone could be murdered on the street and no one would notice.

social media photo by Morgan Kennedy

Initially, things went well. People were reading the posts before they entered the chambers and were seeing what their fellow Chicoans felt comfortable saying about other humans. We didn’t have bullhorns, like they did, and we didn’t have a chant. Most of us stood in a circle around the display and caught up with each other or talked about what we planned to say during the Council meeting.

photo by Morgan Kennedy
The rally participants wear yellow-green T-shirts apparently made for these events.

As the meeting time drew closer, the tide shifted. Some in the rally crowd turned their attention toward us, and large numbers of people began to crowd around us. Our posters were kicked and spit upon. A tall young man in our group, Josh Lang, became the main target of the mob. Dozens of people stood in front of him chanting, “Save our town!”

And Josh didn’t budge. He held a sign that read, “Public Health is Public Safety” as high as he could over the crowd. I have seen very few instances in my life of conduct that I would consider boldly courageous, and Josh’s behavior was nothing short of that. I will always be thankful to him for making himself a target and a distraction so that the rest of us wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

I had a man come up behind me and shove me. Hard. As soon as his hands left my body I saw a Chico PD officer grab him and move him away from me. People in yellow shirts and Trump hats screamed, within inches from my face. There were several people there, sporting red silk shirts with the Guardian Angel logo and red berets to match. Their purpose at such protests is to provide “protection” from things getting out of hand. However, one of those men began stomping on our display and trying to rip it up. Again, Chico PD had to step in and remove him.

We didn’t run away. We didn’t shove back. And as far as I witnessed, Chico PD did an excellent job in this high-tension environment. They kept us safe. If they hadn’t been there in large numbers, squeezing themselves between us and those men and women in yellow shirts, it would have been much, much worse. After what seemed like forever, but was only 45-ish minutes in reality, the group ran out of steam and began to disperse.

I hope after this event we can all agree that this isn’t, and never was, about safety. If the rally-goers cared about safety they wouldn’t have made those officers’ jobs so dangerous. People who care about safety wouldn’t regularly talk on social media about murdering people they don’t even know.

We ALL want a safe Chico. I love this town — this is my sacred ground, the place where my memories live. This is where I was born and where I hope to die. We cannot ever hope to improve our city this way. Violence never solves the problem. Fear never wins, even if it is the first response, a knee-jerk reaction. This is not how we make this a better place to live. This is not how any of us will feel safe.

Morgan Kennedy is a local activist and vice chair of the Democratic Action Club of Chico. She also manages a local food bank and is a foster parent.

10 thoughts on “City Hall rally for public safety creates danger A tense confrontation is diffused

  1. I was in the minority in favor of the needle program. I was there when two possible issues started to arise. The Chico police stepped in and managed the situation well. At one point I asked another, “Do they think we don’t want a safe Chico?” We need to communicate. I felt hate so much it kept me up at night. This mass anger was so surprising. While most folks chanted, bull horned, andtrouped around some were aggressively attempting to take over the 10 by 20 foot space we occupied. It was like crazy. Maybe it off gassed some of their anger. I just hope we can communicate for the well being of all citizens.

  2. I was there right in the center of it by the council chambers steps. There was one small confrontation and it lasted all of about 5 seconds. You are spouting a lot of lies and misinformation created more problems. Yes there are a very few radicals as in any group but they are very few.

  3. NVHRC does not even keep track of how many needles are going out vs. how many needles are coming back. Is that responsible? When I ask they refuse to answer. How can they know how dangerous it is for a child or pet to get stuck in a school yard or park if they don’t even keep track? Also, As far as I know Chico City Councilman Karl Ory a needle supporter is the only person to stick his arm out and appear to physically assault someone A photo of that actually made the front page of the local paper and video is available for your reporter to review if Morgan Kennedy is interested, maybe not.

  4. I have reviewed the video you speak of. I saw no evidence that Councilmember Ory struck the individual, and it seems out of character to me that he would attempt to assault someone. It looked to me like he was placing his hand in front of the camera (without touching it), but I’m inclined to take him at his word — that he was waving at the camera — barring evidence to the contrary. To state that he appeared to “physically assault someone” based on the video, when no charge has been filed, is unfair. — Editor.

  5. If you look at the comments on social media sites you will find overwhelming evidence that the various “make Chico safe” sites do not condone any type of violence or confrontation. Your article uses examples of a very small minority that does not in any way speak for the intent of the larger body. Every group will unfortunately have a few radicals that will, unfortunately, be used to make a false case. “Everyone wants a safe Chico” very true, lets all work together to eliminate root causes of the problems.

  6. I’m a mother of five, so I don’t think I represent danger to start with. And I was at the march. There were also kids, baby boomers, people with pets and all kind of individuals performing their right to show discomfort about the misplacement of used needles at public areas specially at our parks and creeks. There were also homeless and supporters of this program performing their right to express their disagreement. We care about homeless but love our kids and the safety of our community.

  7. “Josh Lang became the main target of the mob” is correct. In a non violent fashion. As I approached walking with my “Keep Chico Safe” sign innocent Josh Lang cut me off and hit my sign with his. I then stood toe to toe with him as he and I both spouted chants. I stood there as Josh’s spittle rained down on me. I pulled away an aggressor who physically went after Josh after Josh pushed him when he reacted to a woman ripping the sign out of his hand and yelled at her. At the request of PD I stepped back and Josh continued to pursue me towards the stairs. At one point I stopped retreating and held my ground with my hands crossed behind my back. This was a standoff between good and evil. Evil is giving helpless addicts the tool to keep them trapped in the hellish nightmare of heroine addiction. Evil is giving needles to a child and asking “Is this enough to get you to your next fix?” Evil is watching the coroner retrieve another human being that has died of an overdose and still has the needle in their arm. Evil is hosting an event designed for ” How to take over a City” Evil is letting someone poison themselves so bad that they have to live in doorways and under bridges with a COMPLETE ABSENCE OF HOPE!

  8. I was at both rally’s, most of what you claimed in your story are false
    I also live streamed both rally’s from the beginning to the end & you can go to my page and look for yourself because they are public
    Both rally’s are about Chico & making our city safe
    I do not know who had the Trump banner but as for Trump hats, shirts , pushing & spitting I never saw
    I do have someone telling me to move along & then turning around to BA me

  9. This group is about community safety, I do agree that the way some handled their frustrations with the needle “exchange” was completely incorrect and will lead to no benefits or safety for anyone. The problem that I see is the safety of transients is being placed above the safety of the community as a whole. There is safety for users that is heavily out weighing the safety of the community at the moment and the main thing is that something needs to change to restore balance to safety for both sides. It’s extremely unfortunate that this is not being communicated effectively. But something needs to change

  10. Hi I’m the guy with the trump flag I was there to show my support for a safe Chico and ban the needle exchange program and keep the sit and lie law I also wanted to bring attention to the fact that the democrats that run this state county and city are leading our local community’s into a cesspool of Depravity And this problem is not a republican problem it’s a Democratic problem may be if I could get some democrats to carry republican signs the city council might get the hint their jobs are in jeopardy

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