The Star-News - July 12, 2002

Kids say the darnedest things

There are places, even western democracies, where street activism has to be undertaken to draw attention to beatings, torture and wrongful arrests conducted by a corrupt police force.

There are parts of the so-called free world where a picket similar to that organized outside Chula Vista police station last Monday would be rapidly dispersed or arrested for highway obstruction. But, this being America, some teen-agers are enhancing their résumés by showing initiative and taking to the streets with placards. Their call to The Star-News was part of their notification to the media that Chula Vista PD operates as an instrument of terror and intimidation.

A handbill from the demonstration used those terms and further said, "Our police force wastes its very valuable time bullying and harassing the people it owes its existence to." Given that the document is headed "A Declaration of Principles" and proceeds to speak on behalf of "We the Youth of Chula VistaŠ" this must be serious stuff.

So what prompted these civic minded students from Hilltop High to such hyperbole? Is this another Rodney King story in our own back yard? Actually, it's more like a Rodney Dangerfield story. The kids got stopped by police a couple of times and they don't feel the cops gave them enough respect.

The "terror and intimidation" boils down to having a car searched for eggs when some other youths had allegedly been driving around throwing eggs at cars. The second piece of overzealous policing occurred when one of the kids from the car was among a group of young men, one of whom, was carrying a can of gasoline. They allege that on that occasion one officer was verbally rude to them.

These were the only two incidents the street picket's spokesman could come up with in answer to reporter Laura Mallgren's questions. But these are what, according to the Youth of Chula Vista, brings the necessity of "observing, limiting and reducing our city's police force."

Now the word is out that it's very dangerous to be verbally rude to the Youth of Chula Vista, so let's talk about the police. Most of us will be pleased to hear that officers are routinely stopping young people in cars if they're suspected of throwing eggs. It's fairly certain that, if a police officer can spare the time, he should check out some eccentric who's wandering the streets with a can of gasoline.

Incendiary language doesn't further anybody's cause in these dry times.