City Council discusses community alert ahead of possible protest

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

Santa Clarita City Council members said Tuesday alerting residents ahead of the possibility of a local protest over the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement was the right call. 

On Monday, the city issued a news release announcing that, along with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, it was aware of a possible demonstration Thursday, near the intersection of Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway, and saying looters and rioters would face arrest. 

“All protesters who wish to assemble peacefully and share their feelings and concerns can assemble in the city of Santa Clarita,” the news release read. “Those looters and rioters who are looking to cause damage and steal property will be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

The message comes as several protests, both peaceful and violent, have erupted across the nation against police brutality after the death of Floyd, a black man killed by Minneapolis police. 

Following a protest of about 300 that saw no arrests Saturday at the same location, many on social media discussed that a larger one could occur on Thursday. While there has been no confirmation about an organized demonstration, Mayor Cameron Smyth said it’s the city’s responsibility to notify the community. 

“I think it was necessary to put out a statement in advance because social media was very active (Monday) and into (Tuesday) morning with speculation and misinformation. Given all that is transpiring on social media and what we’re seeing across the country, it’s important for our residents to be aware,” Smyth said.

The warning is a service to local citizens, said Mayor Pro Tem Bill Miranda. 

“We have had good protests and unfortunately, some are violent and it behooves us as council members to inform our business owners and residents that there’s potential for violence in our community,” he said. 

While there were no arrests or injuries reported from Saturday’s protest, Councilman Bob Kellar said he was concerned about the possibility of looting and rioting Thursday. 

“I am very concerned. Having been in a number of riots in my life, the only way to protect this city is by having a very strong showing of law enforcement. Nobody in law enforcement is comfortable with what we saw in that video (of Floyd’s death), but what message are you trying to get out with rioting?” said Kellar, who’s also a retired Los Angeles Police Department officer. 

Council members Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean said they hoped for a peaceful demonstration and expressed satisfaction with Saturday’s outcome. 

“Clearly, people have a right to protest peacefully. Putting out an early notice gives our residents a heads-up if they don’t want to be involved in heavy traffic, and that they should go down different routes. Our folks have been really wonderful through this crisis,” Weste said. “And I’m thrilled to be here and let our community know that the city is here for you.”

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