John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This Bible verse is for all of us, but we encourage the Santa Ana City Council to pay particular attention and listen to the community.

Government authority flows from the people.

People vote; people pay taxes; people participate in a variety of ways – some not so obvious – that gives our leaders license to act. We celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement. Young people from Orange County spoke truth to power to change America!

Government—from the White House to the local city council—needs to understand the people grant this power in exchange for representation, discussion, action, justice, protection, inclusion and fairness.

The Santa Ana City Council has apparently forgotten that democracy is a two-way street and a balanced deal.

Recently, the City Council canceled a meeting because a young man refused to remove his hat. The hat did proclaim a vulgar reference to police – which we do not support – but we do wonder if this truly was the reason, or if this was an attempt to silence voices – particularly those of young people – to discourage participation in the democratic process, particularly by young people.

A perfect storm has us wondering. The mayor of Santa Ana is in a bit of hot water. According to the Orange County Register, a city investigation into Miguel Pulido found that he violated financial interest filing requirements and may be embroiled in a financial conflict of interest related to a land swap. In a closed Council session, prior to the canceled public meeting, the Council voted to release the report to the public. That meeting was stopped before it even started.

The same night, the Council was set to hear a resolution about the federal Department of Justice and its investigation into the Santa Ana Police Department’s treatment of undocumented residents and violations of California’s TRUST Act.

Meanwhile, during this same infamous night, the City was also set to discuss—and possibly approve—Ordinance 50A, the so-called “decorum” ordinance to govern people’s behavior during council meetings. This is a frightening idea, and appears to be a direct threat to free speech.

On top of these issues, young people have apparently been shut out of the process. They attended the most recent council meeting to share their concerns about the police, the ordinance and the City’s treatment of youth overall.

There were 71 agenda items. The youth wanted to speak. The City made them wait…and wait…and wait. Finally, the City agreed to move up the public comment portion of the agenda—to 9:15 p.m. Young people have school, homework and curfew, but they weren’t allowed to talk until this late hour.

This also impacted the parents in attendance, as they had to rush home to get their younger children to bed. This is sad. How can this happen in a democracy? How can a City entertain passing ordinances that discourage civic participation? How did a hat stop a Council meeting? Why did the City play games with the agenda to muzzle young citizens?

City leaders allowed all this to happen. Who has the courage to say enough is enough? Who will join the young people and demand that their voices be heard?

Now more than ever, we need community spokespersons to serve as community heroes. A hero possesses character, shows conviction and speaks truth to power—particularly during difficult times.

Youth are responsible for amazing and positive changes around the world. They deserve respect. They deserve our support. Let God’s People Speak!

Whitlock is the president and founder of the Orange County Interdenominational Alliance, where Meza serves as director of community development.

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