Members of the Santa Rosa SWAT team were at the South Park Day and Night Festival on Saturday. They were there to demonstrate to attendees what they do and, most notably, to show off their big weaponry. Many participants, it seems, were furious over the fact that they allowed children to hold their guns. Some as young as 5.
Press Democrat reports:
Photos taken at the event show a Santa Rosa police officer talking with a group of youths as a young boy holds a fully-automatic assault rifle while looking through its sniper scope. Another shows a boy perhaps as young as 5 years old grabbing the grip of a riot gun on a table covered with gear beside the city's SWAT command vehicle.
After photos circulated among "concerned citizens," local politicians predictably loudly erupted over the small brouhaha. Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre said she was “alarmed and devastated” by the display, questioning the judgement of local law enforcement.
Attila Nagy, the sharp shooter who snapped the controversial photos, showed much concerned, saying: "What are young people learning from this? ... No matter how you justify it, no matter how you twist it, it's the promotion of violence."
Police and festival organizers defended the display, which featured a fully-automatic rifle, "and interaction with children as a proper outreach to the community, in line with other efforts to reach out to the people the department serves." notes CBS SF.
Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm countered the anti-gun sentiment, saying, "We encourage our cops to get out of the car and interact with the community...Whether you like it or not, our police have guns."