Vargas: Cops keep the peace at yet another Orange County protest

By Joe Vargas

So, it’s Tuesday night, Oct. 31 and I make the decision to forego handing out Halloween candy and watching the World Series in order to attend a planned demonstration against Milo Yiannopolus at Cal State Fullerton.

News outlets and social media had let it be known Cal State Fullerton Police were preparing for any possibilities given a history of arrests and violence at previous Yiannopolus appearances.

Classes were cancelled, parking lots were restricted and a nearby high school was closed — all in anticipation. I was wondering who would forego a near national holiday to attend. It was Halloween, with one of the best World Series games in decades taking place the same night.

Cal State Fullerton Police battened down the hatches in preparation. Fencing was erected to secure the student union, and security protocols were put in place to deal with any potential protests.

The biggest part of those preparations included mobilizing local law enforcement agencies to assist.

A lot of police officers were notified they would not be able to go trick or treating with their kids and would be missing the World Series. The life of a cop isn’t easy. And I’m sure this must have caused some strain at home for many of them.

As it turned out, the demonstration — while at times vocal — only was mediocre as demonstrations go. Mind you, I covered the protests in Laguna Beach and the elections rallies in Anaheim last year.

There were the passionate yet at times inarticulate protestors. There were the outnumbered counter- protestors antagonizing the group and in the process creating headaches for the officers charged with keeping everyone safe.

The largest percentage of the crowd were probably spectators.

In the end, it was all a performance for the media, citizen journalists and the hundreds of people capturing the moments on their cell phones.

The name calling, the chest puffing, the verbal assaults, the profane chants, the black hoods and helmets were all theater. I’m not saying it was without entertainment value. Hundreds monitored the Behind the Badge OC Facebook Live feed.

I had to agree with the one lone demonstrator who addressed a crowd gathered around an especially boisterous Trump supporter dressed as Arthur. He yelled out, “If we just don’t pay attention to these guys, they’ll go away.” But obviously, his words fell upon deaf ears.

Hat’s off to all the officers who worked the demonstration. I’m sure their feet must have been killing them. Mine sure were.

This is the future of law enforcement for the time being. Significant law enforcement resources are being deployed not just here but around the country to deal with protestors and counter-protestors.

At no small expense to taxpayers, police officers across the country have become babysitters standing the line separating opposing crowds. When all the accounting is finalized, we’re going to find free speech comes with a very expensive price tag.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.