Santa Clarita declares local emergency, announces curfew ahead of expected protest

Hundreds of Black Lives Matter protestors stand on the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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In preparation for a possible demonstration on Thursday following the death of George Floyd, the city of Santa Clarita on Wednesday issued a local emergency and a 12-hour curfew. 

The local emergency, approved unanimously, authorizes the city’s Emergency Services director, who is City Manager Ken Striplin, “to take the necessary steps for the protection of life, health and safety in the city of Santa Clarita,” according to its resolution. 

Among those steps is to have “significant county resources” present, according to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Capt. Justin Diez. The National Guard is also expected to arrive, said Mayor Cameron Smyth, who said their presence was requested. 

The curfew is set to take effect Thursday at 6 p.m. and end Friday at 6 a.m. Law enforcement, first responders, individuals traveling to and from work and people experiencing homelessness are among those exempt. Those found in violation could face fines up to $1,000 or face imprisonment, according to sheriff’s officials.

The announcement was made after the City Council met earlier in the day during an emergency meeting to discuss how it had been preparing for what they expect to be “upwards of 800 (protest) participants in the city.” 

The curfew was initially proposed to commence at 4 p.m. Thursday, but was later changed to 6 p.m. following the council’s closed session meeting. 

“I want to make it clear that whoever wishes to come to Santa Clarita, those who live in our community that wishes to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard and are exercising their First Amendment right, you are more than welcome to do that here in our community,” said Smyth. “However, those who wish to take advantage of these peaceful protests and use that as an opportunity to either loot or riot, that will not be tolerated.” 

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, City Council members said Tuesday they hoped for a peaceful demonstration Thursday that would avoid looting and rioting akin to that seen in other cities in Los Angeles County and elsewhere. 

Several protests in Santa Clarita and across the nation have erupted following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin is facing a second-degree murder charge, while three other officers involved have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. 

Previous local protests have remained peaceful, with no arrests or violence reported. Thursday’s possible protest emerged following numerous rumors on social media, but no one group acknowledged organizing the demonstration. On Wednesday, several more people and organizations, such as the Democratic Alliance for Action, advised the public not to attend any action Thursday. Other protests are also expected to take place in other parts of the valley on the same day and on Friday, with local groups saying those are confirmed and will be peaceful. 

Smyth said the city and law enforcement have prepared prior to what could potentially happen Thursday and did not do so for Saturday’s George Floyd protest and for a Reopen California demonstration in early May, because “we have seen comments that have expressed the potential for very large and aggressive participation from those that are not residents here in Santa Clarita.” 

“What we have seen in other cities throughout the country and here in California, it was important for us to take the necessary steps to deploy the resources we have to ensure the security of our residents and our local businesses and property, and also to ensure that those that want to protest peacefully are able to do so,” Smyth said. 

Officials also announced that City Hall would be closed Thursday, just days after announcing it would reopen with safety measures in place due to the easing of COVID-19 “Safer at Home” orders. Santa Clarita Transit is expected to deviate routes during the afternoon hours on Thursday to avoid the area of Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway “in order to minimize potential service disruption due to possible protests,” read a tweet from its Twitter account. The city also announced that the Valencia Library, located on Valencia Boulevard and Magic Mountain Parkway, would close Thursday but keep its locations in Newhall and Canyon Country open. 

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