Like most tightknit communities united by a single cause, the Michael Jackson fans camped out in Santa Maria are protective of each other and wary of outsiders. While many of those standing on the courthouse sidewalk wave pro-Jackson signs, some people have other opinions.
“The people who are here to support Michael don’t like it that I’m here,” said Dianne Horn, a Nipomo, Calif., resident whose homemade sign identified her as a supporter of the victims of child abuse. “But I’m not against Michael. I’m just here for the victims.”
Jake Bird, a resident of Chino, Calif., arrived at the courthouse on April 4 riding the “innocent-mobile,” a Segway scooter decked in Jackson memorabilia. Never once stepping off the Segway, Bird rode into the shot of every camera he could find in order to argue for Jackson’s innocence or inform news crews of his two-week Segway pilgrimage from Chino to Santa Maria. Bird said his ultimate goal is to ride the innocent-mobile to Washington, D.C.
“I just got here this morning and will be riding my innocent-mobile until my urination jars run out,” Bird said.
Bird then rode up behind a group of child-abuse victim supporters and began chanting loudly, “One, two, three, four – Michael’s not a molester.”
As Bird continued his efforts, fellow fans yelled at him to keep quiet.
“He’s not a real fan,” said BJ Hickman, a Tennessee native who has attended the trial from its beginning. “He works for Jimmy Kimmel. He’s a hater pretending to be a fan to make us look bad.”
“They’re just jealous because they don’t have innocent-mobiles,” Bird said.
Horn, who has attended the trial each day since it officially began on Feb. 28, said she has a different attitude when it comes to dealing with opposition. Though she describes the general feeling of the Jackson fans toward her and others supporting victims’ rights as hostile, she credits the Santa Maria Police Dept. with allowing her to rally for her cause.
“The police have been outstanding,” she said.
Horn said that, as she stepped out of her car last Monday morning, some Jackson fans yelled at her to go home.
“I had to call my mother. She didn’t want me coming today,” Horn said. “But I had a police officer right there right away.”
For some, Jackson is a hero worthy of the international media attention. For others, the trial is an excuse to garner attention for themselves. For Horn, however, Jackson is not nearly as important as the children the Santa Barbara district attorney alleges he abused.
“This is where I need to be: here, trying to get this issue out in public and trying to get people talking about [it],” Horn said. “People think child molesters are strange monsters lurking somewhere, but they’re friends or neighbors. They can even be a celebrity.”