False positive: a test result that incorrectly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when political activists who were not local to the area started showing up at small-town rallies, protests and at city council meetings. Perhaps it’s always been the status quo, but for those unaware of it happening in general, it may seem to have come to the forefront with the election of President Donald Trump.
At the end of 2016 and throughout 2017, small rallies grew exponentially because people were traveling to participate in them instead of and/or perhaps in addition to holding their own local events. At one particular rally on March 4, 2017, in support of Trump off Mills Road in Ventura, many of the participants were from out of the county. At that time, these nomadic activists became obvious. It’s unclear if certain politically charged events grew out of local concern or were set up by a bigger group to draw attention and stir commotion on a microscale in multiple locations. It’s also uncertain if there is any particular incentive for out-of-towners to show up at these events.
While large national and global marches were sure to attract people from all over to gather in solidarity and show mass in numbers at central locations, such as big cities, traveling activists at small-scale happenings seem a bit unusual. And misleading. But there is something to the strategy to think globally, act locally.
With the inauguration of Trump, fear-fueled reactions to the president’s divisive language and actions against immigrants, which included travel bans and a proposal to build a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border. In response to the anti-immigrant sentiment, California lawmakers passed in October, Senate Bill 54, the so-called sanctuary state legislation that restricts the ability of local and state law enforcement to work with federal immigration authorities. The law went into effect on Jan. 1. By March, however, one city took a stand.
On March 19, the City Council of Los Alamitos in Orange County passed, 4-1, an ordinance exempting local authorities from adhering to SB-54. The Orange County Board of Supervisors and several other cities followed suit to some degree by either filing a federal lawsuit or joining a lawsuit over the legitimacy of the sanctuary law or enacting ordinances that exempt a municipality from abiding by SB-54. Any lawsuits over the issue are still pending, and there are questions about whether cities can exempt themselves from state laws. But the curious concern is what prompted the backlash, especially as it grows, to SB-54 — local lawmakers, local residents or out-of-towners with an agenda?
To all appearances, Los Alamitos seems to have the most legitimacy, given that Orange County is well-known for its conservative base. When the pushback spread to Ventura County, especially at a regular City Council meeting in Thousand Oaks on May 1, it became obvious that some of the anger against SB-54 that was on display was not from the City Council’s constituents. Worse, as local elected officials weigh their political futures, they could easily be swayed by vocal groups, even if that doesn’t reflect the reality of actual residents and is, in fact, deceptive.
We are all for participation in the political process, but setting a fire in someone else’s town to push political ideologies that do not represent local perspectives is simply wrong. It’s difficult to say whether it’s passion that pushed these people to places outside of their hometowns or something nefarious, but if people want change in how their own cities are being represented, then local residents need to get up and speak for themselves or use the local media as a platform to be heard in news stories and/or letters. This carpetbagging political activism is an unfortunate byproduct of democracy, and indifference over involvement perpetuates the problem. The question is, why would any elected official pay attention to nonconstituents?
It is unclear how far passionate and politically divisive people will go, but we have a suggestion. If showing up to regular city council meetings won’t fit your schedule, email your perspectives on SB-54 and other issues to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters live on in perpetuity.