Saturday, I was in Laguna Niguel early and saw that the “Annual Moon The Amtrak” event was going to be big. It was only 9 am and there were already a lot of people. I went off and did some errands and came back through around 1:30. I got there just in time to see the Orange County Sheriff Helicopter come in over the tracks and announce that the crowd would have to disperse and leave the area as it was an un-lawful assembly.
A huge “ahhhh…” went up from the crowd at the same time and shortly after a black undercover type sedan went through on Camino Capistrano and announced the same thing. I was on the other side of the tracks and where I was there was no one. I thought for a moment and called the photo desk at The Orange County Register to see if they wanted the shots. They shot it last year for the mooning part, but this was different.
“If you want to shoot it on your own go ahead and we’ll see what you get…so send it to me if you get anything good and I’ll look at it…we’ll just see…”
I carry a change of clothes in my van and so quickly changed from my shorts, got my equipment together and made my way over. By now, there was a definite movement to comply with the order. The Sheriffs were lined up on the bridge that is there just south of “Mugs A-Way” saloon. They had their squad cars lined up and stood beside them in groups. A single file line of cars, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboarders, scooters and walkers made their way in the single open southbound lane under the watchful eye of the Deputy Sheriffs.
I really expected this to erupt into something and so was trying to keep my eyes open to be safe and get a good shot of it all. I think mostly the event has been very innocent and a way for adults to let off some steam and be a part of the quirky history in Orange County. I have shot enough events to know that a few drunks can ruin a regular event and this looked like something that would ignite but I was relieved as soon as I got there and started shooting on the bridge.
A few “discussions” occurred between participants and deputies and as well, although heated, the deputies gave everyone a way out while remaining firm. I think this humbled more than a few folks that should have gone to jail and they realized the break they were getting and cautiously did as the deputies asked.
In general, I followed the deputies, while hanging back, so as not to encourage anyone form trying to make the news. The deputies were calm and conversed normally with anyone that approached then. I saw several times deputies and attendees laughing together as if they were at a Jaycee softball game. There was an obvious method on their part as they moved through the crowd and gave everyone plenty of time to get handled anything illegal and in the open. I saw one sheriff sergeant speaking for awhile with an apparently upset woman and then was speaking with someone, using her cell phone. I got a shot of it and it was especially interesting to see a helmeted sheriff using her cell phone with a fluffy ball dangling form it. He must have solved the problem as she walked away much calmer than when she came up to him.
I heard someone say that it had started with a medical aid and the emergency personnel had a difficult time making it down. I don’t know if that was true. This was really a good crowd actually and I think the only impediment to emergency response would be by someone drunk getting in the way on accident, getting run over or becoming belligerent because of a uniform. I don’t remember seeing any bathroom facilities and that could be an issue. Everyone was minding their own business and the crowd was gentle. I have seen much more controlled, sanctioned events with a similar theme, and the feeling for me has always been that something could easily happen. Once I was there, I was wary of course, but this crowd just didn’t have that vibe.
Its always a few jerks that ruin it but a good job must be recognized on the part of The Orange County Sheriff’s Department and especially because they obviously meant for it to be that way. Maybe our new Sheriff has already had an impact; I would really like to think so. The crowd deserves credit as well. They definitely didn’t agree with the order and yet peaceably did as they were asked and without incident.
I don’t look forward to the day that things don’t turn out they way they did today but then we’d be like any other country where things go wrong and get worse by the minute.
The artcle in The Orange County Register: