In what seemed like a 4th of July block party, dozens of locals in the city of Bell amassed Tuesday afternoon in front of City Hall celebrating the arrests of eight current and former Bell elected leaders and officials. Residents passed out American flags, party hats, balloons and noise makers while Ray Charles' “Hit The Road Jack” blared in the background.
“I hope Rizzo drops the soap in jail,” said Olga Bardowell, 62, of Bell, referencing the former city manager Robert Rizzo, who was charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. “I'm very happy that this happened and glad they're all being thrown in jail.”
Rizzo was among eight current and former Bell city officials arrested this morning for allegedly misappropriating $5.5 million in city funds which included unauthorized personal loans. Members of the group Bell Association To Stop The Abuse or BASTA created a large poster showing Rizzo being hauled off in handcuffs within hours of his arrest. The word “JUSTICE” was emblazoned boldly in red at the bottom of the poster.
The group formed shortly after news broke that Bell council members were being paid exorbitantly high salaries as the small working-class city struggled with high unemployment and layoffs. Despite the dire economic conditions of the city, residents were in a joyous mood with some dancing and singing.
During the rally, children kicked, punched and spat on the large image of Rizzo as adults cheered and clapped in approval. BASTA members also yelled “Thank You Jerry Brown!” who is currently in a competitive governor's race against Meg Whitman.
“We are the working class that represent the city of Bell for everybody,” Jesus Casas, 35, a resident of Bell, told a crowd of reporters. “We need a government for the people and by the people.”