By Michael Feinstein. Inside/Outside. June 14, 2016
Ever since Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles on the evening of June 1968 California presidential primary, major presidential candidates and their spouses began receiving Secret Service protection. Previously, they did not.
According to the Secret Service website, “protection of a candidate/nominee is designed to maintain the integrity of the democratic process and continuity of government.”
With the recent California primary drawing presidential candidates (and their spouses) to Santa Monica, the Secret Service was here too.
Donald Trump fundraiser off San Vicente
On May 25, Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump held a fundraiser in Santa Monica. According to an invitation obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the minimum ticket price was $25,000, with top donation tickets up to $100,000.
Trump’s previously announced public appearances in California had drawn strong protests. But in this case, the fundraiser was held at a private residence near San Vicente Boulevard and only publicized at the last minute. As a result, it only drew a small number of local protestors. So what ended up being disrupted was not the event, but the surrounding neighborhood. How?
According to the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), San Vicente was blocked off between 14th and 19th streets, along with the smaller streets that lead into San Vicente between them. This also included the posting of temporary no-parking signs between 14th and 19th streets on San Vicente, and restricted parking on 16th Street, south of San Vicente for public safety vehicles. Many local residents were irate, finding their usual routes home were unexpectedly blocked. I asked Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks about this:
“The Police Department has a tradition of assisting the US Secret Service when presidents and/or presidential candidates visit Santa Monica. These visits, while pre-planned, come on short notice. Consistent with our practices, we leave it to the Secret Service to publicize the location. On the other hand, it is the Police Department’s responsibility to provide security which entails safe ingress and egress for the candidate, a location for media staging, and a zone for First Amendment activity. These processes involve street closures and restricted parking in the area of the venue. These are temporary restrictions which, despite previous public notice via the City’s SM Alerts system, some may find inconvenient.”
For some local residents like Leila Conners, this wasn’t enough.
“We shouldn’t use the SMPD to protect this racist and we shouldn’t block off our neighborhoods to accommodate him — especially if it requires militarizing our neighborhood with machine guns and assault weapons. The SMPD members I spoke to told us it’s for our safety. Then if Trump causes such safety concerns and also costs the city so much money, he should be told he is not welcome and should be banned — banned on both moral grounds due to his hate-mongering, and for practical reasons as it’s just not possible to have him here.”
No slouch to politics herself, Conners is a co-founder and president of the Santa Monica-based Tree Media Group. With a background in international politics, Leila founded Tree Media to support and sustain civil society, and has created films like “The 11th Hour” and “We the People 2.0” to highlight environmental and political issues.
“The SMPD members I spoke to were very professional doing their job. But between the lines, as human beings first, it seemed to me that they were not happy to be there. I surmised that the people calling the shots were the Secret Service, and that in so many words, they ‘hired’ the SMPD to do this, so I think it’s a larger issue around federal and municipal control.”
One of the challenges of the Trump campaign for many is how do you protest it and still respect the free speech rights of the candidate and those that support him?
There many in this country who legitimately are concerned that the racist and fascist tendencies of the Trump campaign could preview a U.S. version of 1930s Nazi Germany; and unless they do something now, they will profoundly regret it later. Such concerns cast an interesting light on what it means to “maintain the integrity of the democratic process and continuity of government.”
Bernie Sanders at the Barker Hangar
Less than a week before the California presidential primary, the Bernie Sanders for President campaign contacted Judi Barker — the longtime owner/operator of the iconic Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport — about holding their election night campaign event there.
“I consulted with my crew,” Barker recounted to me, “and we decided that even though we had another event scheduled the next day and we would have to break down the entire set on election night, we would do it. I immediately contacted the Airport staff and the Santa Monica Fire Department to let them know. We still had to be approved by the Secret Service to make sure that we are an upstanding, no-problems venue. The next morning we were approved and we were off to the races.”
This wasn’t the first presidential campaign event held at the Barker Hanger. In 1992 current California Gov. Jerry Brown — then campaigning as a left-of-center populist — held a rally there for 5,000 people, that also featured the musical group Crosby, Stills and Nash.
“Back then we probably had three police and a single Secret Service agent,” she said. “This time the increased screening and people power of the Federal and Municipal agencies was mind blowing. We had approximately 25 SMPD, four bomb dogs, about 20 Secret Service agents (that I could tell, they laid low so sometimes you had no idea who they were). Satellite trucks were parked in front so it would block any crazy person from running a car with explosives into the building. The bomb sweep went on for hours.”
Happily, the Sanders event ultimately went off without a hitch, providing a perfect geographical bookend to the de facto end of Democratic primary campaign, with Hillary Clinton speaking first (Eastern time) at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Duggal Greenhouse, followed by Sanders at 11 p.m. Pacific time at the Barker Hangar.
But what has happened to our country and our world, that we live with so much insecurity?
No sympathy for the Devil
Before the Sanders campaign contacted Barker, she had already received an inquiry from the Trump campaign. “I said no for obvious reasons,” Barker told me. “I honestly try to always make a choice that is the right fit for the community with the least amount of disruption and that is positive.”
In the all-time classic “Sympathy for the Devil,” Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger sings, “I shouted out, ‘Who killed the Kennedys?’ When after all, It was you and me.” Since the narrator in the song is the devil, the death of the Kennedys was evil and devil’s work. But when the Stones say “It was you and me,” they are also talking about the evil and suffering we inflict upon each other.
Positive social change comes from the inside and outside. Inside, by reflecting upon our own attitudes and actions towards each other. Outside, by collectively deconstructing structural classism, racism and sexism in our society. Electing candidates that embody both sides of this duality will bring us the real revolution.
Two part series on Santa Monica and the 2016 presidential election:
Secret Service comes to Santa Monica. June 14, 2016
Local elected officials divided in Democratic presidential primary, June 13, 2016
Michael Feinstein is a former Santa Monica Mayor (2000-2002) and City Councilmember (1996-2004) . He can be reached via Twitter @mikefeinstein
‘Inside/Outside‘ is a periodic column about civic affairs Feinstein writes for the Daily Press, that takes advantage of his experience inside and outside of government.