The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.
June 23, 2003: A spectacle – part Mardi Gras, part nightmare – rolled through downtown Sacramento on Sunday as nearly 2,000 protesters and an army of riot-gear-clad police hit the streets.
The chaotic scene was a precursor to an even larger rally and march beginning at 10 a.m. today at the state Capitol. Organizers have taken out a march permit for 8,000 people.
Their target: an international agriculture conference, hosted by the U.S. government, that starts today at the Sacramento Convention Center.
Despite the massive disruption downtown Sunday, police arrested just 36 demonstrators, including 14 who disobeyed orders to disperse near the IMAX theater, where conference participants saw a screening of a 3-D movie on the international space station.
Earlier in the day, milling activists upended trash bins, tore down chain-link fences and briefly charged officers with the city’s own street barricades – sending a police car into rapid reverse to evade the protesters. A cadre of activists also took over the site of the former Mandella Community Garden in midtown.
“Hundreds of us are gathered here to say ‘No’ to the corporate takeover of the food system,” said Leda Dederich, an organizer of the protest, which she said drew more than 130 groups.
The catalyst for the massive protest is the international Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology, hosted by the United States to showcase farm technology and scientific know-how.
Its aim, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to ease famine and hunger around the world.
Protesters contend the meeting is not about ending hunger, but rather is a stage for the United States to push its agenda on other countries, an agenda that promotes big-business interests and technology, specifically the genetic engineering of crops.
Dorothy Korber, Terri Hardy and Elizabeth Hume
‘A dream come true’: Community Center lauded at ’74 opening
June 30, 1974: Let it be recorded that at 10:30 a.m. on June 29, 1974 – give or take a few minutes – 500 feather-flapping pigeons soared into the air through a rainbow of balloons and spouts of brilliant orange smoke and the Sacramento Community Center officially was born.
Led it be noted, too, that a speech was made and prayer was said, a poem recited and a band played mightily – and in some eyes, there were tears – as the American flag rose slowly into the stifling heat of the summer day.
For a blessed event, it was spectacular. But like any birth, it’s not so much the moment that counts – but the unwieldy excitement that there’s so much to come.
For hundreds of Sacramentans, that was the mood yesterday. What moved the day were everybody’s private daydreams about what this town’s new baby might grow up to be.
“This is the largest single public improvement ever made in Northern California,” said Mayor Richard Marriott, standing alone, in the shadow of the huge complex, a few moments before the festivities began. He looked up the tally gray walls awhile, switched to wax philosophically.
“This is a beautiful day, a great day for Sacramento; it’s a dream come true. You wouldn’t know this is sleepy little River City, not this morning.”
“What’s the quotation?” the mayor asked to no one in particular. “Without vision, the people perish?”