The City Needs to Rethink Their Solution

Today, although a bit rainy, is the first day of Poly Gras. A response to the heavy handed police shut down of the San Luis Obispo’s Mardi Gras celebration last week. It’s been a low murmur around campus this week that the big party is this weekend, but it seems like the hype is going to be a lot bigger than the actual event. I was surprised to hear a radio DJ promote Poly Gras and the news media have been having a lot of fun speculating on what will happen. In fact KSBY 6 has a news team on the streets tonight to get the scoop on the big party. According to the official Poly Gras website, www.polygras.com, the main party will be tomorrow night.

I’ve been absent from the college party scene so far, I mean, I’ve only been in college for 5 years! However, I have seen enough in my time here to know that the average college student thinks getting wasted and parting hard is a normal part of college life. I disagree, but I think that the average student adopts this mantra.

This last Friday as I was leaving class to return to my car I passed by Mustang Stadium and California Blvd. I was shocked to see more police than I had ever seen in my life congregating on the now closed California Blvd. The police (all 400 of them) were in cars, vans, ATVs, motorcycles, and bikes. They had closed California Blvd. from Foothill at the South end of campus to Perimeter Blvd. at the North end. Even though I had done nothing wrong I was rather intimidated as I had to pass a group of 7 officers on the way to my car. It seemed that the officers were bored and I felt like if I sneezed the wrong way they might detain me just to give them something to do.

My intimidation quickly turned to annoyance as I entered my car and attempted to drive down the closed portion of California Blvd. (my only exit route) only to have an officer stop his car directly in front of me. He then left his car and started talking with another officer apparently oblivious that I was there! He talked and talked and I debated on what to do. He finally noticed me after I revved my engine a bit and he shut his door, acting rather annoyed himself, and signaled for me to go around him. Normally I would drive straight ahead the ¼ mile to the freeway onramp, but instead I was directed left onto campus and had to circle my way around to the opposite side of school near the dorms to get on the freeway. For those of you who are not familiar with the route my normal route is ¼ mile and 1 signal and the new one was who know how far with 4 turns and 8 or 9 stop signs and signals!

Okay, I?’m whining I know, but I’?m relating my story to make a point. The riots of last year?s Mardi Gras shut down the very intersection that the police decided to shut down this year. If the police were in San Luis to protect the innocent and preserve our tranquil way of life then why were they making more of a disturbance than anyone else! Maybe I?’m missing the point of why they were there. Maybe the police were called into San Luis to annoy the innocent and disrupt our tranquility! I am grateful for all the dedicated law enforcement officers who struggle to enforce the law and before my ?run in? with SLO’?s army I really was apathetic to the entire Mardi Gras debate, but after seeing first hand what 400 police look like and how well they did at acting like arrogant thugs I was feeling pretty rebellious myself and felt like causing a little civil disobedience. Don’?t worry mom and dad I?’m smart enough not to do anything but I can’?t blame those advocating a response to last weekend?s urban lock down.

Whatever happens this weekend I?ll be at home in bed, but San Luis Obispo’?s dud of a mayor, Dave Romero, needs to rethink how he plans to ?deal? with the single most powerful economic force in his city and the county. People don’?t respond well to what they see as an unjust and unreasonable attempt to control them and that especially holds true for 18-25 year olds. The aristocracy of San Luis Obispo looks down at the students of Cal Poly as a force to be controlled and dealt with. Instead why don’?t they try to work with the majority of students who don?’t want to cause trouble but just want to have fun and enjoy there independence from mom and pop?

Some suggestions: Why doesn’?t the city zone a portion of the city surrounding the school as Educational housing? This zone could have more relaxed noise and public disturbance regulations and everyone would know that if you want to party you do it in the party zone. This would allow police to focus their attention on the more severe incidents and not waste time breaking up noisy parties. To deal with Mardi Gras and out of town visitors causing problems the city shouldn’?t say that ?out of towners are not welcome? since tourism is a large part of San Luis? economy; instead everyone should be welcome. As with any other day of the year, if you break the law you pay. I?’m sure that this last weekend the bars, clubs, and markets would have enjoyed the extra revenue. Last year?’s riots were started by a misunderstanding between police trying to break up a party and the party goers. If there had been more lenient laws last year there wouldn’?t have been a problem, and then the city wouldn’?t have had to spend so much money this year to just postpone the party for a week.

I must give the city counsel some credit as they decided not to continue the triple fines this weekend, however I heard on the news that they hope the students ?hold up their end of the deal? by not causing trouble. The students never made a deal with the city, but that?s a different story. The city does show a bit of understanding of the situation, however, by not continuing the ?police state? approach.

The conflict between the school and the city has been going on since the school was opened and if the city doesn’?t want to escalate the problem they need to rethink their solution.

For more on the Mardi Gras and Poly Gras visit:

http://www.livejournal.com/community/calpoly/

http://threelastwords.net/blog/index.php?p=17

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/10875167.htm

http://www.polygras.com