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Mailbag:

Acosta's actions showed aggressive defiance

October 17, 2007

Mr. de Arakal’s thought-provoking column (“Acosta case never trial worthy,” Oct. 11) on the Acosta trial begs for a counterpoint. His general point that the Acosta trial was an embarrassing train wreck for our city is valid, but there is much to be debated about how we got to this point.

I believe the city’s decision to prosecute Acosta was justified. Take the mayor’s actions out of it, and attempt to leave any bias you may have behind. Faced with a defiant Acosta and a very vocal crowd, what were the police supposed to do? He actively resisted them and disobeyed their orders. If the city had refused to prosecute him, what message does that send to anyone else wishing to disrupt a council meeting? No one knows why the district attorney decided to not prosecute. The district attorney is an elected official, perhaps entering the illegal immigration fray by prosecuting the most visible symbol of pro-illegal immigration activism in Orange County at the time would have been too politically costly.

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I know full well this is a very passionate issue, and that it does seem completely unfair and disgusting that an elected official would grant an out-of-towner privileges (Gilchrist asking his supporters to stand) while shutting down a resident wishing to do the same thing. Not allowing Acosta’s supporters to stand does appear wrong and discriminatory, but that is only if you ignore significant factors contributing to the sequence of events that night.

Acosta’s behavior at the previous meeting, which he deliberately disrupted with a profanity-laced outburst, the size and make-up of the crowd, and the nature of the exchange between the mayor and Gilchrist all factor into what happened. Gilchrist requested, Acosta demanded.

Acosta’s willingness to throw decorum out the window in December could reasonably be construed as a deliberately planned act of civil disobedience.

The mayor, a veteran law-enforcement officer, made a decision based on his perception of the situation, and it seemed pretty clear that the police felt the same way. Acosta did say he and all his supporters would be “right here” and would “fight this to the end” and were “not going to let this pass.” From a public safety standpoint, what do you do? Just hope that everything will be OK, it’s just rhetoric, or take preemptive action?

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