By now you’ve heard of Tuesday’s tumultuous dust-up at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting in Redding. There, in the hallway outside the chambers, a few dozen protesters raised a wild ruckus, complete with horns, bells, a full-on regulation-sounding siren, and of course, there was the bullhorn. Meanwhile, inside the Board of Supervisors chambers, supervisors – two in particular, chair Mary Rickert and Les Baugh – engaged in heated exchanges.
What happened Tuesday is a tale of two groups, a wall of windows apart, well-documented by two different video perspectives: The Shasta County Board of Supervisors inside the county chambers, and the protesters outside the board chambers.
Prominent rally organizer, “Rally” Sally Rapoza, captured the morning’s events via video, and offered play-by-play commentary of all the key moments, including the most dramatic images: dozens of protesters, lots of American flags, a few people with duct-taped mouths, and most of all, the star of the show, a bullhorn-wielding Elissa McEuen, who, when denied permission to speak inside the chambers, would later shout her 3-minute speech at the doors from which she’d been denied entry because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Meanwhile, inside the chambers, Rickert did her best to carry on with the meeting as if it was just another board of supervisors meeting in the middle of a pandemic protest.
Eventually, though, as McEuen hollered her amplified message and the noise escalated from the lobby, Rickert would call for a recess, upon which time she and Supervisor Moty would leave the room, prompting protesters’ exclamations from the lobby that Moty and Rickert were walking out. The remaining supervisors Joe Chimenti, Steve Morgan and Les Baugh would remain behind, hearing McEuen’s demands, which, when summarized, were: Open Shasta County now. Take an emergency vote now. We the people declare Shasta County open now.
A sign taped to the chamber door that faced the lobby, inches from where McEuen delivered her speech, explained the COVID-era new meeting rules: “The Board of Supervisors Chambers is Closed. Participate remotely by watching the live stream+ submitting comments electronically.” It included a website for more information.
Inside the chambers, upside-down flags — a signal of dire distress — and rally signs faced the supervisors.
It all started with a blessing and a pledge . . .
In retrospect, inside the chambers that morning, despite the rowdy rally in the lobby, the meeting had begun civilized enough, with a Zen Buddhist blessing that mentioned peace and compassion, offered remotely via speaker phone by Reverend Helen Cummings. The blessing was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Supervisor Moty, recited in a welcome moment of unity by everyone inside and outside the chambers.
The final words had barely escaped Moty’s lips before all hell broke loose in the lobby.
” . . . liberty and justice for all.”
With that, a cacophony of shouts, hoots, whoops, and even a siren’s wail ripped through the lingering moments of the prayer and pledge. The sound rocketed from the lobby to the supervisor chambers, where the seats held only those permitted to be there because of an official county capacity, such as the clerk, county counsel, the supervisors and various department heads, all spaced well apart.
Inside the chambers, it wasn’t long before there was open dissension, primarily between Rickert and Baugh.
Baugh, renowned throughout the north state for publicizing his haircut stunt in a non-essential Cottonwood barber shop to protest the COVID-19 restrictions and then posting it on Facebook earlier this month, seemed especially jovial and confident during Tuesday’s meeting, despite the chaos beyond the chamber doors.
The heated exchange was sparked by Baugh, who’d arranged over the weekend for protester Elissa McEuen to appear before the board without consulting Rickert, the board chair, during a time of COVID-19 restrictions when the public isn’t allowed to present comments in person. The dialogue between Baugh and Rickert rolled from a slow simmer to a full boil soon after clerk Mary Williams had finished reading aloud all the emailed comments that had been submitted in time for the meeting. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Regarding the public comments, the majority of which were about the shut-down, as one email after another implored the board to open Shasta County ASAP, as if it weren’t a state decision.
Some emails were written by individuals. Others were petitions, signed by many people. A few emails asked the supervisors to do something to allow young people to show their 4-H animals at live auctions, and others asked that students be allowed to enjoy graduation. A couple of comments had to do with PG&E. But by far, the greatest number of comments expressed extreme disdain for the shut-down, and the request that the supervisors re-open Shasta County. Many of the messages were scolding and critical. Some specifically asked for — by name — the firing or forced resignations of top Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency staff.
Commenters spoke of flawed data and models, of an incompetent CDC, and the need for an accurate and objective public health department. One person hinted at dire outcomes.
“People are going to get hostile if this does not change ASAP,” warned one emailer.
“Those that aren’t comfortable can stay home,” said another. “Please open all of Shasta County.”
One emailer, who identified herself as a registered nurse who’d been part of Mercy Medical Center’s COVID unit, said the shut-down was irresponsible, and that it was time to “swing back to normal”.
It was after the reading of all the public comments for that part of the meeting when the conflict ignited in earnest – both inside and outside the chambers.
After Supervisor Baugh complimented clerk Mary Williams for doing a fine job of reading emails, he chuckled as he told Supervisor Rickert that as she was probably aware, there was a request from someone else who wanted to address the board
Supervisor Rickert: “No, I’m not aware.”
Supervisor Baugh (laughs): “OK, I’ll make you aware.”
He pointed to the back of the room through the glass of the closed doors to Elissa McEuen, a familiar participant at Redding protests that rally against the pandemic shutdown.
“That’s the young lady out there that’s waving at us,” he said.
Baugh described McEuen as someone who represented “a ton of people out there” – and made the case that it would be more efficient to have McEuen speak for all those people, rather than have all those people send messages. He rationalized having McEuen come inside and speak, because after all, the board had invited Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce director Jake Mangas to speak before the supervisors during the shut-down, so why couldn’t the same invitation be extended to this one woman?
Moty and Rickert both interrupted with corrections to Baugh’s rationale, such as the fact that Mangas was part of a north state COVID-19 committee, adding that some of the communication between Mangas and the board had been via phone call.
Baugh asked to be allowed to continue speaking, said he wasn’t done, and that the other supervisors would have their turn. He continued.
Baugh explained to Rickert that McEuen had contacted Baugh at home Sunday with a request to address the board. Baugh said he’d passed along McEuen’s request to staff. Rickert said Baugh should have directed McEuen to her.
Baugh said he was aware that county counsel would have something to say about the request, but still, Baugh said he thought the presentation was appropriate.
County counsel Rubin E. Cruse Jr. explained why the supervisors could not allow McEuen to come inside and speak, as it would break the rules set in place during the shut-down; rules intended for all citizens. He said the county had provided ways for the public to participate and communicate with the board and its meetings.
Baugh was undaunted by the legal opinion.
“We all know we have the ability to say yes,” Baugh said. “We don’t have to ask the governor of the state of California.”
Outside the chambers, the lobby exploded into cheers of approval.
“We can say, ‘We can hear you today,’ ” Baugh said. “And there’s nothing wrong with hearing our citizens.”
Joyful cheers blasted from the lobby.
“Her request was simply to represent them (a ‘ton of people’) in a single, 3-minute presentation that she has requested in advance,” Baugh said. “I’m led to understand that’s been turned down.”
Outside the chambers, upon hearing Baugh say that McEuen wouldn’t be allowed inside to deliver her speech in person, the group erupted into angry shouts.
In the lobby, a woman told protesters to put duct tape over their mouths, to provide a “powerful visual” if she was not allowed inside.
Inside the chambers, Baugh defended himself using a method that looked an awful lot like Gaslighting 101.
“Mary, this is not my orchestration,” Baugh said with a chuckle. “Folks, did I contact you to do this?”
Outside the chambers, the protesters, who could hear everything happening inside the chambers through speakers, responded loudly to Rickert’s assessment of Baugh’s involvement with, “No!”
Inside the chambers, Mary Rickert addressed Baugh again.
“Mr. Baugh, I’ve seen emails with your name on them; that you are part of this, so …,” Rickert said.
“It’s just not true,” Baugh said.
“I’m sorry, I’ve seen the emails,” Rickert said. “This is ridiculous.”
From the lobby a protester shouted to Rickert, “YOU’RE ridiculous!”
Inside the chambers, Baugh replied, “This has nothing to do with me.”
“Oh, Mr. Baugh, this has everything to do with you,” Rickert said.
Supervisor Moty asked Baugh, “Is your grandstand play over now?”
Supervisor Steve Morgan asked Ricket if it were possible for McEuen to read the presentation via a cell-phone call from the lobby. Rickert countered with a suggestion, that if McEuen’s speech was in writing, she could slip it under the chamber doors so the clerk could read it aloud to the supervisors.
Outside the chambers, a number of protesters yelled, “Noooo!”
With that, McEuen in the lobby picked up the bullhorn and proceeded to shout her entire 3-minute presentation toward the chamber doors.
McEuen yelled good morning, and went on to say that “we the people” had gathered in peaceful assembly that morning to appeal to the board to defend the people’s constitutional rights provided by the Bill of Rights.
” … The time has come! This is your opportunity to fulfill your duty to represent your constituents — us — and defy the governor’s illegal, unenforceable order. You are not the first county to take this step, and you certainly won’t be the last, but by God you ought to repeal the stages and return Shasta County to its full function …”
McEuen said the board members had failed the people, but they could make things right, and that the situation could be remedied immediately.
“We the people affirm that Shasta County is open!”
In the lobby, hearing that McEuen had proclaimed that Shasta County was open, her fellow protesters cheered, applauded and enthusiastically utilized their noise-makers.
“Board of Supervisors, now is your turn,” McEuen said. “Take a vote – an emergency vote – and open Shasta County now!”
Inside board chambers, an exasperated looking Rickert said the board must move onto the consent calendar, and that she’d “deal with this” later. She looked across the room and spoke to someone out of camera range.
“Sheriff Magrini, can you please ask the group to maintain silence so we can conduct our meeting?”
Supervisor Moty suggested a break, to which Rickert agreed, and called for a recess.
In the lobby, Rapoza, with the camera, announced to the protesters that Moty and Rickert had left the room, but that the other supervisors had remained behind.
In the lobby, some protesters chanted, “Open Shasta County! Open Shasta County!”
A few local media folks were waiting to speak with McEuen, but she said she was waiting to see what happened after the board returned from recess, whether they would allow her speak.
Rapoza, still videotaping, said, “Here comes Sheriff Magrini.”
The sheriff stopped before the glass door, flashed a smile, and gave a little closed-finger wave before he opened the door enough to step through.
Magrini stopped in front of McEuen and asked how she was doing, to which she said, “Good.”
“Good,” Magrini said, before he leaned in toward McGuen and quietly asked something about her speech. She answered, “Yes sir.”
Magrini said he’d call her later.
Back in the chambers, Rickert spoke. “I just wanted to say that if I have someone from my district and they contact me, I will respond to them personally, and that is unequivocal. I have worked in District 3 as hard as possible and I will represent all of my constituents, if they will just contact me.”
She apologized for her lack of decorum, and for losing her temper.
Then the meeting carried on with other important matters, all equally deserving of coverage. Another day.
Since Tuesday’s meeting, if you look at Facebook pages like Redding Patriots and the variations of local re-open pages, there’s mounting criticism toward Mary Rickert, calls for her removal, or for her to step down. Some people are getting all apoplectic about how Rickert was shaking her finger at Baugh, which I can’t confirm myself, since the video didn’t show a close-up of those exchanges between Baugh and Rickert. However, even if she had pointed her finger at Baugh, or even shook it, I’d say that’s a relatively mild reaction, considering the stakes, and considering Baugh’s involvement. This perfectly positioned Rickert to look like the unreasonable meanie, while Laughing Les comes out smelling like a rose; the only guy in the room who believes in free speech.
To those who want to dump Rickert, I say if anyone needs to hand in their supervisor’s cape and walk into the sunset, it’s Les. First, for the barbershop stunt as a protest against the pandemic shut-down orders, and now, for the way he appeared to manipulate a scenario in such a way to further enrage protesters, but also putting the chair in a no-win situation during the supervisors meeting.
When Elected Leaders Behave as if Leadership is Elective
Baugh, like his buddy Sheriff Magrini, makes no bones about his unwillingness to enforce and support COVID-19 restrictions and shut-downs.
Such a weird situation for north-staters, to openly acknowledge the facts of Shasta County life, that rules don’t apply to some of our most powerful community leaders.
Despite knowing about the new rules, Baugh communicated with McEuen the weekend before the meeting, and rather than pass on the message of McEuen’s request to do a 3-minute presentation – something Baugh knew was impossible – he did an end run around Rickert and instead sent the message to the BOS staff. Had he shared that message with Rickert over the weekend, she wouldn’t have approved it. Raise your hands if you think Baugh knew that.
That was the point of contention during the heated exchange between Rickert and Baugh.
The portion of the board meeting that looked like a train wreck felt scripted, with Baugh as the director, helped along by the other actors, such as Sheriff Eric Magrini, who openly refuses to enforce public health COVID-19 restrictions, and of course, Elissa McEuen, aka, “the woman with the bullhorn.”
Funny that Baugh at one point claimed that he’d not orchestrated what happened Tuesday, because it absolutely had an orchestrated ring to it, with Baugh looking very much like the conductor.
And what about McEuen? Did she truly believe she should be the lone exception out of a county of 180,000 people, that she should be allowed to have all the rules that the rest of us follow broken for her? During the KRCR interview she talks about the limitations of expressing a message in just 250 words, and that it just isn’t the same having someone read her speech, because the reader (probably the board clerk) wouldn’t deliver it with the same passion.
I’ll bet the hundreds of citizens who emailed their comments to the board clerk to be read aloud would have liked to make their own presentations, too, with all the passion they feel.
And seriously, if her primary goal was to bring her message before the board, why didn’t she accept Rickert’s unorthodox invitation to slip the hard copy of the speech through the door, and allow the clerk to read it? Or, if it was, as McEuen said in her KRCR interview, about word count limitations, why didn’t she just break up her 3-minute speech into smaller bites, for her rally friends to email to the clerk?
What About Baugh?
Once again, Baugh has managed to turn his bad behavior into a win-win situation for him-him. If, by some miracle during that meeting, his fellow supervisors had taken a leave of their senses and agreed with Baugh to allow McEuen to be the one exception allowed to enter the chambers and speak, then it would have been county counsel Cruse’s duty to step in and forbid it, on legal grounds.
Baugh is smart enough to have known that, despite playing his part with wide-eyed shock and disappointment, delivering Rickert’s decision (clearly broadcast into the lobby), that he’d heard McEuen wouldn’t be permitted to speak. With that, in the lobby chaos broke out and shouts erupted from the outraged protesters, who stood inches from the sign taped to the chamber doors that explained clearly, in black and white, the pandemic-era new rules.
Baugh’s request was wrong on so many levels. For starters, Baugh knew very well that making such a request was inappropriate, because he was well aware that during the COVID-19 shutdown, in an attempt to avoid large gatherings, the county could no longer allow the public to attend the meetings in person. However, the county mitigated that by offering all kinds of options for both viewing and communicating.
Ironically, one of Supervisor Rickert’s first requests of the day was for the clerk to review what options the county had implemented so the public could comment and participate in the board meetings in lieu of the pre-COVID-19 open meetings.
What Baugh should have done, when McEuen had – as Baugh said – contacted him at home over the weekend to discuss her desire to give a 3-minute presentation before the board: First, Baugh should have brought Rickert into the loop, and told her about McEuen. Second, Baugh should have told McEuen that she and her fellow patriots were welcome to participate in a peaceful protest outside the chambers, but she would not be allowed inside to speak. Why? Because it would have been unfair for the board to ignore the rules for one person, especially given that hundreds of Shasta County citizens have sent emails to the clerk to read aloud. He should have impressed upon McEuen that the rules apply to everyone, including her. He should have told McEuen that she would not be the exception to the rules.
But no, that’s not Baugh’s way. Instead, he did nothing to dissuade McEuen from showing up with her 3-minute typed speech in hand, backed by dozens of fellow protesters who’d come armed with noise-makers, signs and duct tape.
Meanwhile, there’s the Redding Patriots Facebook page, where it promoted the protest like this: “RALLY TO RE-OPEN SHASTA TUES. 9AM 1450 COURT St”, and now, after the fact, it’s couching what happened Tuesday like so: “Patriots on May 19 are locked out of the Board of Supervisors meeting but still demand that Shasta County be opened back up!”
Give. Me. A. Break.
The Patriots weren’t locked out of the Board of Supervisors meeting. Patriots, it’s not personal. Right now, with the exception of essential county employees, everyone’s locked out of the meetings during this novel coronavirus crisis. Baugh knows that, the Redding Patriots know that, and our sheriff knows that.
Speaking of the sheriff, I’ve saved the best for last. (Which reminds me, I hope you’ve read Annelise Pierce’s piece about Sheriff Magrini and selective enforcement.)
One of the most subtle but telling parts of watching both videos, each several times, was the sheriff’s part in Baugh’s play. He first enters the picture when Supervisor Rickert finally has had it with the pandemonium, and she looks out across the chambers and asks Sheriff Magrini if he would please ask the crowd to be quiet, so the supervisors could continue their work.
I’ll bet what Rickert imagined Magrini would do was he’d walk out to that lobby, look over the crowd and say something like, “Hey folks, I know you’re frustrated, and I respect that these are hard times for us all, but I need to ask you to please keep the noise down so the supervisors can finish their meeting. Thank you.”
Something like that; understanding, diplomatic but firm. I’m just making this up. I’m sure in the sheriff’s handbook there’s a template for getting protesters to please shut up without causing a riot.
But unless there’s a lapse in Rapoza’s video between the time when she says, “Here comes Sheriff Magrini,” and the time he walks through the door and turns into a cool cat purring hello’s at McEuen, it turns out he never did as Rickert asked. He never addressed the crowd. He never asked them to be quiet, as Supervisor Rickert asked. Instead, he just chats up the lady with the bullhorn, someone he clearly knows, whose phone number he already has, and he whispers something about her speech, and he tells her he’ll call later.
Fox. Hen house.
Interestingly enough, for a little background, McEuen was also the leader at the small May 1 rally outside the Sheriff Department off Park Marina Drive.
Later, at that protest, she read a statement.
Here’s the statement she read:
There are many reasons to protest, and emotions run high, but we have
come together today with a specific purpose …
We are gathered here today in a peaceful assembly to encourage our Shasta
County law enforcement, and Sheriff Magrini to defend our constitutional
rights as reserved to us, the people, by our Bill of Rights. Our *unalienable
rights* to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Sheriff Magrini is able to do this by the authority granted to him when he
took his oath of office to “support and defend the constitution of the
United States and of California, against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.
By that oath, we ask that he take no action against businesses re-opening.
We ask that he not investigate any call regarding social distancing or open
businesses. We ask that he spend no resources to close or keep closed
As our sheriff, he has been granted the power to secure our rights.
Sometimes the best course of action is no action at all.
Therefore, we are here to announce that persons in Shasta County may
safely reopen according to the authority granted to us by the constitution.
We ask you, our law enforcement officials to defend us by spending no
resources that would delay us or close us down.
Note: At this point Elissa invited everyone into prayer.
We pray for wisdom for Sheriff Magrini. We ask that he fulfill his oath to
protect Shasta County and its people by securing our rights to live, work,
and play in this beautiful land. We pray for safety for all our family in blue.
And we pray that freedom rings across our great country once more.
This excerpt pretty much says it all:
“We ask that he not investigate any call regarding social distancing or open
businesses. We ask that he spend no resources to close or keep closed
As our sheriff, he has been granted the power to secure our rights.
Sometimes the best course of action is no action at all.”
So, there we have it. We have executive-order protesters who are working in conjunction with a Shasta County supervisor. And the protesters and sheriff are aligned, to the point where the protesters are asking that Magrini not enforce the COVID-19 health and safety restrictions. Guess what? He doesn’t.
We have a sheriff who not only allows a rodeo to carry on in the middle of a pandemic, but he did so despite public health officials’ request that the show not go on. Finally, we have a sheriff who refuses to even obey the simplest request to keep the peace during a local government meeting, made by Mary Rickert, the chair of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors. What’s even more embarrassing (for him), is that he had to be asked in the first place. You’d think, if you’re not just a sheriff in that meeting, but The Sheriff, that when the decibel level reached a certain point, you would voluntarily haul your keester off the cushy bench and ask the crowd to keep it down. (I’m trying to imagine RPD allowing that kind of a disturbance during a Redding City Council meeting, and I just can’t.)
Obviously, since Magrini and these anti shut-down protesters (not all protesters, of course) are such pals, it would have been so easy for him to ask them to be quiet, and they would have complied. I am certain that a single finger to his lips would have done the trick, without ever saying a peep. If anything, like Baugh on Tuesday, Magrini looked pretty happy about how things were going inside those chambers.
Maybe I’ve watched those videos – especially “Rally” Sally’s – too many times. If you think I’m reading it wrong, I’m open to a difference of opinion here.
There’s one thing I am sure of, and that’s the fact that within Shasta County we have some elected officials who do not represent all of our best interests; rather, they’ve got the backs of their folks, their followers, the anti-maskers, the pandemic deniers, their like-minded believers.
And what about the mask-wearers, those who believe in science, those who follow public health guidelines and who believe COVID-19 is a real threat? What about us? What about all of us?
(Editor’s note: This post was revised on 5/23/2020 for clarification.)
Video source Redding Patriots Facebook page, videographer, “Rally” Sally Rapoza, a member of the Redding Patriots.
Click here to see the KRCR video interview by Mike Mangas.