Last Saturday

The vandalism and the drunkenness that occurred after last month’s Second Saturday were nothing compared to what happened this past weekend. The shocking shooting death of Victor Hugh Perez Zavala, a Sacramento City College student simply walking down J Street with friends, has made this abundantly clear.

What caused this Second Saturday devolution on the late-night streets of Midtown? It’s a combination of obvious forces—lots of people on the streets, too many youth with nothing to do, way too much alcohol.

But could city officials—even with the best intentions—have also contributed to this dire outcome? The directive to ask police to beef up patrols, dominate the streets and impose a curfew for minors did not turn out quite as planned. Last Saturday, there were 26 patrol units on the scene after the official “close” of Second Saturday, whirling lights flashing, bullhorns blaring. They even proceeded to arrest and load teenagers into paddy wagons for being out after curfew (see “Before the murder” by Nick Miller, SN&R Frontlines, page 10).

Is it possible that the heightened show of force actually shaped a sense of agitation and discord amongst a crowd of people who otherwise would have dispersed if police had been present but less aggressive—and if the alcohol had stopped flowing?

We agree with Mayor Kevin Johnson that Sacramento can rise to this challenge, save Second Saturday, figure out how to best deal with the potential for violence at future events. But we suggest that he and other city officials consider the possibility that the imposition of a once-a-month police smackdown may not be the answer.