Hundreds of people ranging in age and color of skin marched in Santa Clarita on Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd, the black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide protests.
The local protest included some tense moments — including a stare-down with deputies at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and a takeover of the intersection of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard — but ended peacefully after several hours.
The rally was one of many that took place throughout Los Angeles County and the United States on Saturday, in response to Floyd’s death. On Friday, Derek Chauvin, the officer seen in the video pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck, eventually killing him, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degre manslaughter.
The Santa Clarita event, which was organized by a mixture of local activist groups, began at 11 a.m. on the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard.
A number of the protesters interviewed said that, whether they were a person of color or not, they wanted to stand in solidarity with the black and brown communities who have vocalized their anger toward race relations and police brutality in the United States.
With people waving signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for George Floyd,” they began to walk down the streets of Valencia Boulevard toward the SCV Sheriff’s Station.
Donned in masks and with deputies in vehicles nearby, protesters walked from the McBean corner, also known as the “Four Corners,” and began to demonstrate in front of the station.
At first taking a knee with a balled fist in the air, representing the Black Lives Matter movement, then observing a moment of silence, then turning their backs symbolically on the station, the demonstrators then headed back to the four corners.
During the demonstration in front of the sheriff’s station, protesters yelled at deputies who stood in a line in front of the building, with their weapons displayed. While some deputies were seen on the rooftops of the station, the SCV Sheriff’s Station Watch Commander Ethan Marquez asked the protesters to not enter the parking lot and said they would be allowed to protest peacefully.
Marquez also asked for them not to block the driveway to the station so that emergency vehicles could come in and out, and the protesters generally complied.
After confronting a counter protest in the front of the station, Hana El-Arabi, one of the Black Lives Matter protesters, said the message they were trying to promote was one of equity and justice across the United States.
“So as you guys can see, there’s been a massive prevalence of injustice and anti-blackness all over,” said Hana El-Arabi, one of the protesters present at the demonstration. “And recently just because now we have video cameras people are actually putting it on tape, people have actually seen it with their own eyes.”
“George Floyd was not the first and George Floyd was not the last,” El-Arabi said. “We’re not stuck in the slavery days. We need to move forward. Black lives matter, period.”
Once reaching the Four Corners again, the demonstrators carried on like they had before.
“It’s time for us to listen. At least let’s hear them out; if you’re not going to change your opinion at least listen to what they’re experiencing,” said Sebastian Cazares, one of the demonstrators who identified himself as a Latino who stood in solidarity with other people of color.
Cazares said the protest was organized by black students, as well as people of color and other white students, alike. In general, the common theme between the organizers was their youth, he said.
Cazares said that the protest aided in the national conversation going on about race and policing because people would not expect this type of protest from Santa Clarita.
“Even in this town we still need to show solidarity with black lives,” said Cazares. “Not everyone is going to agree, but we’re still going to come out here.”
At 1:10 p.m, the group of protesters, after having spent the afternoon walking across crosswalks when the crossing lights permitted, charged to the center of the intersection, bringing traffic on McBean and Valencia to a halt.
Deputies in riot gear then began to line up as the protesters took a knee in the middle of the intersection. The deputies stood in the street, at times communicating with the protesters while other deputies deferred to silence.
Deputies from both Palmdale and Alta Dena were dispatched to the scene to assist shortly before 1 p.m.
By 2 p.m. the protesters had been walked back to the sidewalk after sheriff’s deputies declared the protest to be an unlawful assembly.
“Our line in the sand was when the protesters went out into the middle of the boulevard on McBean and Valencia to stop traffic,” said SCV Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez.
Diez said Saturday that they had received no reports of property damage and no arrests were made as a result of the protest. His deputies reported back to him, Diez said, that the protesters were cooperative and, for the most part, people did what they were asked to do.
“It was a peaceful protest,” said Diez. “It’s important to realize that everybody in the United States has the right to peacefully protest and assemble and certainly the police will always be there to protect not only the protesters’ safety, but the safety of the community, the safety of the motorists, and the safety of everybody.”
Toward the end of the protest there was a straggler group of demonstrators who were seen yelling at a deputy. The deputy responded to their concerns, and by the end their shouting had turned to a conversation. When the protesters finally left, the formerly berated deputy then shook hands with two of the protesters.
“I told them (the deputies) the same thing today that I tell them anytime: ‘Be firm, but fair. Always remain professional,’” said Diez. “If you can remain professional no matter who’s yelling at you, no matter what they’re saying, you can be firm but fair and I think that’s exactly what we did out there today.”
When asked what his response was to the message of the protesters, Diez said that the SCV Sheriff’s Station has an excellent reputation with the community.
“We’ve gotten very strong community support, arguably more so than any other local police or sheriff station,” said Diez. “I certainly understood or understand that people were upset at what happened across the country. But that wasn’t the case here of course.”
“I certainly agree with their right to protest as long as they can protest peacefully, which they did,” he added.