“MPOAches: Citizens March for Resolution” for Beacon Media Newspapers

Protesting PR tactics, Monrovians express worry over image and home values.

May 2008

In the next installment of the Monrovia police salary dispute, residents demonstrated outside the Monrovia police station Friday night to voice their encouragement and disapproval of the Monrovia Police Officers Association’s recent billboards reading, “You’re Approaching Monrovia. Higher Violent Crime. Thank The City Manager & City Council.”

“There shouldn’t be something like that that causes division, but at least in Monrovia we can have counter demonstrations and everybody’s being polite,” said Jim Merriam, whose sisters own The Dollmakers store on Myrtle Avenue.

Merriam and about ten others carrying homemade signs chanted “We support the police. Take down the billboards,” while those that support the billboards carried “Support the Police” yard signs and chanted “Wake up Monrovia. We support the police.”

“The reason we are out here is simply because the billboards are so offensive,” said Merriam. “The police are out on the street with their MPOA booth selling tickets and everybody supports them and then some of that money turns around to be used against us…because it is telling people to stay out of Monrovia.”

The MPOA is also sending out their annual mailer asking for donations and Merriam and others are sending the donation slip back empty and instead writing “take down the billboards”.

“We love the police and have always supported them and hope it can get back that way,” said Merriam.

Aztec Hotel owner Kathie Reece-McNeill demonstrated in support of the billboards and brought her young daughters along to participate.

“I think it’s really sad that it had to come to the point that the billboards had to go up, but no one in Monrovia was really doing anything,” said Reece-McNeill. “People are out here talking now and before that they weren’t so I think the billboards were productive. The city uses their City Manager’s log and their public information officer Dick Singer’s information for newspapers and that’s the same thing as the billboards.”

While Reece-McNeill and fellow supporter Maria Conlon believe the billboards draw attention to the crime problem that the city has tried to cover up, Bellissima Salon owner Maria Fajardo said she feels safe.

“We support the police but I am against the billboards because it’s directly affecting my business,” said Fajardo. “If people are seeing this is a dangerous city and there’s high crime why would they come and do their hair over here? I have no words to describe what this is doing to our community and to our real estate agencies. Would you buy a house when you’re seeing that there’s high crime over here?”

For the first time in about 10 years, Fajardo had difficulty paying her salon’s rent last month, which she said also affects her 15 employees.

“The economy is bad and perhaps that’s part of it but I certainly don’t want a billboard to affect that even more,” said Fajardo, who also feels the billboards put homeowners in jeopardy since they publicize a supposed lack of Monrovia police forces.

“Who stops anyone from going to Compton, East LA or Downtown?” said Conlon. “If you really want to go there you’ll be there—crime or no crime.”

As of press time, Monrovia Police Officer’s Association members had not returned requests for comment.


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