Community activists got their message out April 24 during a “Respect OB” rally at the foot of the Pacific Ocean in the waning hours before sunset. The rally attracted a crowd of hundreds — including merchants, residents, families and a legion of legally leashed dogs — who filled the lawn between Veterans’ Park and the lifeguard station on Abbott Street.
Obecians said they want to put a stop to all of the ugly and unlawful activity that is giving America’s most inclusive neighborhood a dirty image.
Yes, it’s OK to be yourself, said residents. But that is no license to urinate in public, drink in public, do drugs, obstruct sidewalks, solicit, steal or vandalize. The message by residents and merchants was clear: show some respect.
“Don’t light up a bowl in front of my 11-year-old daughter on the seawall,” said Noah Tafolla, host of the “Wonderland” television series on the local PBS affiliate. “It’s not cool.”
Tafolla, a longtime resident, was among the collective of voices who organized the event and made it their mission to stand up for Ocean Beach.
Andy, who didn’t want to give his last name to the media, led the rally.
Hodad’s business owner Mike Hardin took his turn at the microphone.
Pat James — a longtime resident, businessman and president of the Ocean Beach Historical Society — who helped start events like the OB Christmas Parade and the community Fourth of July fireworks display, also had his say.
The speakers waxed nostalgic for Ocean Beach, the neighborhood where they grew up. It’s the neighborhood they continue to call home. And it’s the neighborhood they want to preserve for future generations.
Andy talked about the spirit and heritage of Ocean Beach and the need to keep it clean and safe.
“Don’t litter,” he said. “Pick up after your dog. Don’t etch on widows.”
He shared an affirmation to “make it happen.” The crowd, nodding in agreement, embraced in a Kumbaya handshake with people to their left and right.
Indeed, the rallygoers were hardly the troublemakers the “Respect OB” movement is targeting. Some of the mostly over-40 crowd of new-age hippies signed their names on poster board street maps of Ocean Beach. Many represented local organizations like the OB Historical Society, OB MainStreet Association, Friends of the OB Library, Sunset Cliffs Surf Club, Ocean Beach Recreation Center and the OB Geriatrics Surf Club. A contingent of San Diego police officers stood tall, too.
On the lawn area, booths were set up. Tanya Tafolla and her children sold “Respect OB” T-shirts. Glyn Franks, president of the Second Chances ministry, distributed fliers listing community services like free meals, medical care and prayer services.
Mary, who also didn’t want to give her last name to the media, handed out “Respect OB” stickers. She told a couple how to be good witnesses and explained when it’s OK to call the police non-emergency number to report unlawful activity.
“Do that,” she told the couple. “Have consistency. We don’t want to be delinquent ourselves.”
James spoke about how the spirit of OB has persevered to preserve the community. He pointed to Dog Beach, which exists instead of beachfront high rises and hotels. He said he wants to retain OB’s laid-back reputation and culture of creative people.
Hardin talked about the popularity of cultural tourism and keeping Ocean Beach a popular destination for visitors.
“A lot of people save up over the year to come here for one week,” he told the crowd. “This is our home town.”
Andy gave a demonstration on how to be a “Respect OB” activist through person-to-person outreach.
“Everybody stand up,” he said. The crowd did. He motioned with hands and arms up and down and repeated the mantra “Respect OB.” The crowd imitated in unison, indicating they knew what to do and what to say to a person when they encountered disrespect.
“Respecting OB is not about being against something,” said Andy. “It’s about being for OB.”
Andy introduced T.J. Johnson, who read a poem written about Ocean Beach. Andy gave the stage to Tracie Yudichak, a veteran of the war in Iraq, who returned to Ocean Beach and promptly had her bike stolen.
Andy had the crowd use their cell phones to collectively call District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s office. He also thanked the police, firefighters and lifeguards who serve Ocean Beach. He had a moment of silence for a person recently stabbed in Ocean Beach.
“Only we can save us,” Andy said. “Renew the soul of OB and protect OB for future generations.”
He closed the rally by leading the crowd in a chant.
He began: “People.” The crowd chanted back: “Power.”
The crowd grew louder and louder until they finished with a chant of “Respect OB.”
A recording was played of Aretha Franklin singing her “Respect” anthem.
As the rally concluded, the crowd hung out and shared hugs and high fives until the last pink sliver of sky slid off the horizon into the ocean gray.
For more information on the “Respect OB” movement and how to participate, email email@example.com.