As people strolled down Sycamore Street for Saturday's Santa Ana Artists Village Artwalk, they were greeted by the spectacle of a squared circle and Lucha Libre. After 8 p.m. on Broadway in front of the Santora Arts Building, onlookers happened upon a much different scene of la lucha social. After assembling at Birch Park for a short march, activists lined the sidewalk, shoulder to shoulder, to protest the continued presence in the building of a gallery tenant whom they say sexually harassed and groped numerous women, including an underage minor, during this year's Grrl Fair musical festival, which was hosted there.
Making good on their promise to protest, more than 20 supporters came armed with signs, chants and bullhorns to sound their very loud message for the hourlong demonstration. The coordinated chants could be heard from more than a block away; with it being the first Saturday of the month, the Artists Village was populated by people taking in the activities of the Artwalk.
Activists ran out of printed fliers explaining their presence there to those walking along Broadway. A few folks from inside the Santora came out to film and take pictures of the demonstration. One woman shouted, “That's libel!” and called the protesters' charges untrue before quickly being rebuffed as she retreated back into the building.
With the exception of that incident, there was little to no confrontation. Some people walked by with faces of utter indifference. Others stopped and attentively took in the scene, reading the literature passed out by the protesters. One man strolled by and made a stunted lunge toward the gathered activists as if to punk them, proving nothing in the process. Another ponytailed idiot irrelevantly yammered on about legalizing prostitution to a rent-a-cop nearby stationed.
“I used to frequent art openings at the Santora and actually knew the tenant in question,” one protester told me, requesting anonymity. “I used to feel safe there, and now, I don't feel safe anymore.”
A woman suggested mediation to the activists, exchanging contacts with a person employed with the Orange County Human Relations Commission. A call to Executive Director Rusty Kennedy could not confirm that such a process was under way, but he added, “We would never mediate a legal matter, as that's beyond the scope of our process.”
A man with a bullhorn repeatedly noted the demonstrations would reoccur and become louder each time until the tenant in question is gone. The activists have previously exhausted other channels — legal or otherwise — to address the issue while, as the Weekly has reported, certain artists in the Santora tried to hush it up. An copy of the letter written by the Grrl Fair collective to building manager Rod Gonzalez informs him of its version of what happened that night and that organizers “were asked to keep quiet about the incidents to avoid any negative attention being brought to the rest of the Santora Artists and out of respect and gratitude for them helping us with the event.”
Now? Activists are out on the street in accordance with their outlined plan of action. Meanwhile, the Santa Ana Police Department has apparently told victims who have filed reports that if they press charges, the district attorney is unlikely to take the cases to trial.
Dawn Foor, a CSP Sexual Assault Victims Services supervisor, relayed to me that such a notion underscores the difficulties of the legal process in redressing these issues, “if the victims feel they aren't going to get a criminal case,” she said. However, she continued, “There are other options including a civil case against the building.”