Standing in the empty parking lot of the Rialto Music Coalition Saturday night, Randall Lopez thought about his planned event’s initial promise and its disappointing outcome.
Lopez, the organizer of “A Weekend Course in Community Involvement: Why Bother?,” said that planned speakers deserted the bill, frightened of potential police harassment. The punk bands had been canceled out of fear that the event organizers would be arrested.
“As an organizer who’s obsessed with organized organizing, this whole thing made me look like I didn’t know what I was doing,” Lopez said. “What happened? How did we get here?”
Lopez spent the better part of the week leading up to the two-day affair trying to ensure that the event would go off without a hitch. And Friday’s segment, held at Back to the Grind in Riverside, did. “I got a call from the Riverside police asking if they could help in any way with the event,” Lopez said.
The city of Rialto was not as helpful. After he was informed that only 50 people would be allowed into the venue for the Saturday half at the Rialto Music Coalition, Lopez contacted the city in an ultimately vain attempt to figure out a compromise. The city wouldn’t budge.
“Social movements have always involved music,” Lopez said. “I wanted to know if we could have acoustic music or acapella music. But if it was deemed a concert, I could have been arrested.”
The event was also compared on two separate occasions by the San Bernardino Sun to the riots at the NOS Events Center following the British Invasion 2K6 show last year. One of the RMC’s headlining bands, Naked Aggression, was also billed at the British Invasion 2K6 show. “As soon as I saw the comparison to the (National Orange Show) riots, I knew the concert would get canceled,” Lopez said.
About 150 people had initially been predicted to participate in Saturday’s forum—designed to move IE youth towards positive involvement in their community—but it devolved into little more than a tiny gathering with a handful of people in RMC operator Johnny Neuneker’s tattoo studio, where he gave away free RMC tattoos.
The venue showed up as a blip on the city’s radar when, in January, a concertgoer released a pepper spray-like liquid. Neuneker tried to help the police catch the attacker, but his assistance, which included a photo and the name of the individual, yielded no results.
“We’re trying to get a lawyer,” Neuneker said about the future of the RMC. He said that the city keeps changing its mind on safety requirements for the venue. “We need a lawyer because they’re treating us like they’re the authority figures and we’re the peons. We’re paying for them to harass us,” Neuneker said.
Currently, all shows at the RMC have been canceled pending the location of a new venue or protracted fights with the city of Rialto. “Bottom line, we’re not going away. The kids in this city need a safe place to go where they won’t be pressured by drugs or alcohol,” Neuneker said.