Five Sacramento artists gathered by the fountain at Cesar Chavez Plaza on the night of Monday, March 16. At 8:08 p.m., they planned to launch into rapid-fire spoken word poetry for another rendition of #TheMostOpenMicInTheCity.
But before that could happen, a police officer drove onto the park to break up the gathering, said Olivia Monahan, one of the event organizers. Surprising, given that the open mic operated seamlessly the previous two weeks at the same time and location. It even got kudos in the Sacramento Bee.
“The police said the park was closed after dark,” Monahan said. “I asked why it’s an issue now when we were fine the past two weeks. He said, ‘When you had news coverage, we weren’t going to do anything.’
“It was so strange that he said they basically waited until we didn’t have the Bee with us.”
The group of poets moved to another spot in the park and continued anyway, wrapping things up a little earlier than usual.
Sacramento City Code does state that no loitering is allowed in public parks after sunset. And Sacramento police spokesperson Traci Trapani acknowledged that police tend to patrol Cesar Chavez Plaza more heavily than other parks.
“There were a lot of complaints about people in that park after hours,” she said. “A lot of officers give people warnings, do their education, but it’s the city that wanted it enforced.”
#TheMostOpenMicInTheCity has no plans to move locations or start earlier. If anything, the crew has more resolve now—even though those police warnings could soon turn into citations.
“We’re going to be there every week until they actually give me a valid reason why we can’t do poetry in a park,” Monahan said. “We can’t become a world-class city if we’re not supporting local artists. Our aim is and has always been to make art accessible to everyone. What’s more accessible than a public park in the middle of the city?”