L.A. County, sheriff address George Floyd protests

"Black Lives Matters" protesters hold a demonstration at the intersection of Valencia Blvd. and McBean Parkway Monday afternoon. June 01, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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Amid protests and riots across Los Angeles County following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, county officials called for an end to the violence in Monday’s briefings.

“We want to respect people’s right to assemble peacefully and protest the government, to seek address when they’re wronged,” L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “There is a system that’s already well-established for that. It’s not going to be substituted by a system based on violence, intimidation, looting, robbing people, assaulting people (and) destroying property.”

Villanueva also reminded residents the county is in the middle of a pandemic, adding that, “Our economy is struggling to gain a foothold and start again … So we’re in uncharted territory here, and on top of that to then lose more jobs, more livelihoods, more businesses for a purpose that has nothing to do with the tragic murder of George Floyd, is inexcusable.” 

Villanueva added that he’s committed to creating a united front to put an end to the violence. “We’re going to work with the community, for the community (and) on behalf of the community to reestablish peace and tranquility so people can start reestablishing their lives, not just from the lawlessness in the last three or four days, but from the crisis that we’ve had with the pandemic going on now for three months.”

Santa Clarita Station Sheriff’s Deputies walk beside hundreds of Black Lives Matter protestors on Valencia Boulevard as they begin to disperse on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

This comes after the county officials declared a state of emergency over the weekend, a proclamation expected to facilitate interagency response coordination and mutual aid, accelerating the procurement of vital supplies and enabling future state and federal reimbursement of costs incurred by the county. Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly authorized the request, deploying members of the National Guard to assist L.A. and neighboring communities.

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, commended those whose protests were peaceful. 

“I know our communities are feeling the immense weight of this weekend. Demanding justice and reform, residents made their voices heard,” Barger said. “I was proud to see so many of the protests across Los Angeles County, where they were determined, passionate, and they expressed their commitment to equality and civil rights. In my district, I saw firsthand the vast majority of all the protests being peaceful. I applaud their commitment and resilience in seeking meaningful change.”

Among the peaceful protests over the weekend was one that occurred Saturday in Santa Clarita, where hundreds of protesters marched to the SCV Sheriff’s Station and the intersection of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard. Though there were some tense moments, protesters and SCV sheriff’s deputies brought the protest to a peaceful end, with no arrests or violence.

“Black Lives Matters” protesters hold a demonstration at the intersection of Valencia Blvd. and McBean Parkway Monday afternoon. June 01, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal

A handful of peaceful protesters also gathered in front of the station on Sunday, along with  more who spread out on four corners of the same intersection Monday at McBean and Valencia, holding signs and cheering at passing cars.

Barger also addressed the looting and violence that could be seen across the county, saying they “used these peaceful demonstrators as a way to divert attention so that they could go in and do illegal activities.” 

“As people marched and gathered, many protesters sought to protect the property of local businesses, but some outliers took the opportunity to cause destruction,” Barger added. “It is unfortunate to see so many small businesses and restaurants vandalized and looted just as they were working to recover. Los Angeles County is looking for ways that we can serve the businesses who have been affected and need all of our support.”

The county’s Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer also addressed the situation, touching on the similarities between the protests and current pandemic.

“We know that black Americans fare worse than other groups on virtually every measure of health status, and it has become all too common to blame this on individual behaviors when, in fact, the science is clear. The root cause of health inequities is racism and discrimination and how it limits access to the very opportunities and resources each of us need for optimal health and well-being,” Ferrer said, adding, “When I report each week that we have seen elevated numbers of black deaths in this county due to COVID-19, I am reporting on the consequences of these long-standing inequities.” 

“Black Lives Matters” protesters hold a demonstration at the intersection of Valencia Blvd. and McBean Parkway Monday afternoon. June 01, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Both Ferrer and Villanueva also reminded county residents that the community is still fighting the coronavirus and residents need to remember that as protests continue. 

“The virus respects no one and does not discriminate,” Villanueva said. “We have to focus on the bigger issue at hand, and the one we can control is what we do to ourselves and what we do to our fellow man. We can definitely respect each other, and we respect the peaceful right to protest and seek address from our government.”

“There’s a lot of risk at these gatherings becoming super-spreader events, that is events where a great deal of transmission of the COVID-19 virus is happening,” Ferrer added. “We’ll need to work together to prevent these events from resulting in many more people becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Please take care for and protect all of the people around you. Wearing your face covering is a much-needed act of kindness and respect.”

In a nationally televised address, President Donald Trump said he would deploy the military if states and cities fail to quell the violence. 

“We cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob,” Trump said. “As their president, I will fight to keep them safe … I am mobilizing all federal and local resources, civilian and military, to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans.” 

“Black Lives Matters” protesters hold a demonstration at the intersection of Valencia Blvd. and McBean Parkway Monday afternoon. June 01, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

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