Oh Salinas. Bruised, battered, wounded Salinas. Slate.com’s “Gun Deaths Since Newtown,” an online tracker of gun-related deaths, was having a hard time keeping up with the carnage. At the start of the weekend, there was maybe a little hope that after almost 12 straight days of violence that saw 16 shot and one stabbed for a total of nine dead, maybe things had finally calmed down. The police made such an impressive show of force starting Aug. 2, when, thanks in part to other departments pitching in – no charge to the city – extra officers flooded the streets.
And then Aug. 4, one man was shot to death in the morning. That afternoon, another was shot but survived. Very early Aug. 5, in a crowded East Side taqueria, a look or words were exchanged and a group spilled out into the parking lot. Seven people were shot and three died; at least one more remains in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds. A 21-year-old man has been arrested on charges of murder and attempted murder; if he’s the right guy, it’s safe to say his life is over too.
I don’t know about you, but I need a break. All Salinas residents of the non-knucklehead variety need a break. We also need to do something. As we’re putting this issue to bed Aug. 6, the National Night Out – America’s Night Out Against Crime, which includes everything from rallies to barbecues to block parties in neighborhoods across the country – was taking place. On Aug. 7, before this issue hit the streets, Salinas Councilman Steve McShane held a community meeting at City Hall. Good stuff, and – if we look for it – hopefully there’s more good stuff to come.
For now, the violence is scaring the crap out of people. But the more scared and depressed we get, the more we hide in our homes, the less likely things are to improve.
Here’s a fast list of free or low-cost things we can do to make a difference in the life of the city.
Exercise Your Right to Be Heard: Gather four of your smart friends. Choose the most eloquent. Head to the Salinas City Council Meeting (4pm Tuesday, 201 Lincoln St.). When public comment time comes, the less eloquent can step to the podium and defer their two minutes of speaking time to the most eloquent. That’s 10 straight minutes of being able to tell a captive City Council exactly what’s on your mind.
Exercise Your Right to Blame the Media: Lots of smart people (and a few not terribly smart ones) are laying blame for the violence (or at least the ongoing coverage of the violence) on the media. “You never do anything positive,” I’ve heard more than once in the past two weeks. (When I protest, the smart ones blame KSBW and The Californian.) The email addresses of editors and directors of all newspapers and television stations are available on their websites. Write to us. Most of us read everything that comes to our desks, even the stuff that starts, “Dear Moron.”
Exercise Your Right to Art and Culture: Starting Thursday and running for three nights, the Los Angeles-based Cornerstone Theater Company, with a cast that includes many first-time actors, stages Plumas Negras at The Breadbox – aka The Alisal Center for the Fine Arts. Pay what you can to watch the story of three generations of East Salinas women on stage. (See story, p. 38.) On Sept. 6, Artistas Unidos stages its regular First Friday Artwalk in Oldtown. Totally free, and some venues have snacks. Hit the Weekly’s calendar section for even more suggestions of things to do and places to go.
Exercise Your Hands to Do Good: Cycling activist Mari Lynch points out the Monterey County Probation Department Youth Center needs instructors to teach kids bicycle repair. Hit her blog at www.bicyclingmonterey.com to find out how you can help put tools in the hands of kids who might otherwise be holding weapons.
Exercise Your Right to Fund Something Cool: A group of young activists is trying to mount Ciclovía Salinas, a day-long event that’ll close Alisal Street from Hartnell College to the East Side to auto traffic and open it up to foot power: scooters, cyclists, roller skaters, walkers, saunterers, Zumba-ers, etc. Ciclovía started in Bogotá, Colombia about 30 years ago, when the streets were so dangerous nobody wanted to go outside. The activists are looking for funding to help with the street closures, publicity and security – and hopefully make it a semi-annual event. Hit gofundme.com/3p201k to pitch in a few dollars if you can. And if you can’t, maybe use those 10 minutes of free speech to tell the City Council why it should help this event happen.