SCV on alert: City responds to protest rumors

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

While protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, continue around the country, the demonstrations also continue in Santa Clarita, with small protests having occurred Monday and Tuesday in Valencia and another one of unknown size expected Thursday.

In response to rumors circulating on local social media that a large protest was occurring in the Santa Clarita Valley later this week, city officials released a statement Tuesday addressing residents’ concerns.

“The city of Santa Clarita is aware of the post circulating on social media regarding the possible protest on Thursday,” read the statement issued by the city. “To be clear, no permit has been granted and no permit has been requested.”

Carrie Lujan, a spokeswoman for the city, said Tuesday the reason no permit has been requested is because there is no need for protesters to file for a permit.

“Anywhere in the country, it’s a First Amendment right for free speech,” said Lujan, adding that people are free to assemble as they please so long as they’re not blocking traffic or having some sort of unlawful assembly as declared by the SCV Sheriff’s Station.

Permits are required, according to Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth, if you’re looking to close city streets or use park facilities for events.

“Those require permits because they involve utilizing a street or blocking traffic but if people want to gather on the sidewalk and voice their First Amendment rights, permits are not required, very much like the Reopen protest and the protest on Saturday,” said Smyth.

The city also stated that, despite rumors of protesters being bused in from outside of the community, officials have received no credible information verifying that.

“We have no credible information that 800 people are planning on assembling at the possible protest,” said the statement.

Officials also stated that the city was working with law enforcement and emergency response personnel to create an operational plan in the event that businesses or the community need to be protected.

According to the community organizers for Black Lives Matter, the protests have been organized by a coalition of groups that represent a myriad of races, backgrounds and motives. However, there is a common sentiment among them that the protests largely correlate with anti-police brutality and anti-racism.

One organizer, who asked to remain anonymous so as to maintain the notion that no one person is the spokesperson or leader for the demonstrations being done in Santa Clarita, said that rumors about a massive protest on Thursday are not true, at least to his knowledge.

“The first protest people spread false rumors that we were looters from out of town but we were just local youth trying to stand for something,” he said. “Those claims are something I’ve never heard of.”

The organizer said he does know future protests are planned by local youth organizers who represent a cross-section of all different kinds of backgrounds, ages and religions.

“There are plans for future protests and actions to make a change in our own community,” he said on Tuesday. “There will probably be protests happening often because this is a time of such civil unrest that people are simply going to be speaking out not from any organized group but will go to just protest when they want to.”

The demonstrations in Santa Clarita have been occurring since Floyd’s death on May 25 was first published online, but the largest local demonstration occurred on Saturday.

During that protest, which occurred mostly at the intersection of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard, hundreds of demonstrators took to the street and marched around the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and Westfield Valencia Town Center.

No property damage or arrests were reported as a result of that protest. Since then, protesters have continued to gather on street corners holding signs that read “Justice for George Floyd” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Businesses through Santa Clarita have been forced to close their doors early due to the curfew order. The Walmart located in Stevenson Ranch has placed boards on its windows for the last four nights, according to store staff, and on Tuesday employees were seen stacking pallets in front of the store’s sliding glass doors.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County curfew order was once again extended for the third day in a row, ordering people off of public streets and businesses to close at 6 p.m.

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