Be Seen, Not Heard: A group of protesting seniors is told there's no singing at the state capital.


POOR correspondent - Posted on 22 June 2010

Bruce Allison/PNN
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Be seen, but not heard." These words are often spoken to misbehaving children, yet this is what the Safety Security officer, Keith Troy (badge number 4810), patronizingly said to me and a group of fellow seniors, as we gathered inside the State Capitol in Sacramento. I remember him clearly, a young, tall, white man with blonde hair. He looked like an extra in an advertisement for the highway patrol, as he stood behind a velvet rope in front of the Governor's office, like some sort of dictator out of a cheap movie from my childhood.

About twenty of us, all seniors, met at Saint Mary's Cathedral, nicknamed the Lady of the Washing Machine, early in the morning on September 20th. We represented both Healthcare Action Team (HAT) and California Alliance of Retired Americans (CARA). A charter bus pulled up and we all climbed aboard ready for the journey to Sacramento to meet with the Governor.

On the bus, Jodi Reed, the Director of CARA, reviewed the bills that we wanted the Governor to sign. One bill we were going to petition was to not condodize trailer parks and another bill would require all pharmacies to give out information on medications,

We arrived at the State Capitol around 10:00 a.m. and went to the Eureka Room for some coffee and bagels. There, Jodi announced some good news. The Governor had signed one of our bills. As we walked down the hall towards the elevator we began singing joyfully for senior healthcare. In the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic we sang, "Seniors all united we are standing here right now, we need your help to sign the bill. So we can get good healthcare, and no Ellis Act on trailers."

As we got to the Governor's office I turned around to see two cameras filming us, one from Channel 11, NBC, and the other from a local station, as well as a number of tourists taking pictures of us. At this point two Safety Security Officers approached us. Keith Troy said, "Be seen, but not heard." They fined us for singing in the hallway near the Governor's Office and told us we needed a permit. Jodi had specifically called earlier in the day requesting a permit to sing in the State Capitol. The secretary laughed and said there was no ordinance or permit to give, and we didn't need one.

At the State Capitol we were in fact fined under what the security officers called harassment and interfering with government business. Strangely the officers were part of the Highway Patrol wasting California money on fining a group of seniors for singing and expressing their First Amendment rights.

Jodi and some other people in our group were taken down the hallway and berated like children by several Highway Patrol officers. They said we were not allowed to draw attention to ourselves. They went on and said, "We can take you outside to do your 'Freedom of Speech'." We walked back down to the Eureka room to reconvene. The security officers escorted us downstairs reminding us each step of the way not to make any noise, as if we were back in the first grade. Once in the Eureka room, out of sight from the media, we were told our meeting with Governor was canceled.

We stayed at the Capitol and attended an Assembly meeting where we were invited to perform a play called, "To be discharged on a Friday Night." The purpose was to bring attention to hospital discharge policies and get a bill passed that would make mandatory rules about your rights to appeal discharge.

When did the United States become a dictatorship? As a Veteran, I am now embarrassed that I am a U.S. Citizen. We are living not in the free society the United States preaches of. Our civil liberties are being denied. We are living in an enslaved society.

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