Protests under way in SCV; officers investigate ‘suspicious device’

Protesters gather in the middle of Valencia Boulevard, chanting "Black Lives Matter," during the demonstration on Thursday, June 04, 2020. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

 By Signal Staff

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After several hundred protesters gathered for what had been a peaceful afternoon demonstration Thursday, law enforcement officials cleared a corner at Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway in response to a report of a possible safety hazard.

Officers cleared the intersection in response to a report of a “suspicious device” found near where protesters had gathered.

Early reports indicated a “safety hazard” was found near protesters, which is being investigated. California Highway Patrol officers on the scene asked people to step back as a precaution. Numerous deputies and officers were on the scene to maintain a heavy police presence in the area.

Sheriff’s officials confirmed a “suspicious device” was found in front of the Shell gas station at Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway. The sheriff’s Arson and Explosives Team has been dispatched to the scene to investigate, as of 2 p.m. The intersection was cleared as a safety measure. Sheriff’s Department officials were not immediately available to comment on what exactly was found.

Photo by Dan Watson

Protesters from several different groups converged upon the intersection of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard by noon Thursday, while a smaller crowd formed at Bridgeport Marketplace, where a noon Black Lives Matter protest was planned, according to information circulating online. 

Rumors of an online protest numbering in the hundreds, which was reportedly to happen today according to dozens of posts, which then prompted reports of a counter-protest, spurred city of Santa Clarita officials to enact a 6 p.m. curfew for Thursday and declare a state of emergency.

Protect SCV, a group that formed in response to the Black Lives Matter demonstration, had a few dozen participants already gathered at Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway. About 10-15 Black Lives Matter supporters had gathered outside the Corner Bakery at the same intersection, contrary to prior reports of a Bridgeport meetup.

The nearby Whole Foods parking lot was closed, in addition to the surrounding business parks. At the intersection of Del Monte and El Paso drives, there were five sheriff’s deputy patrol vehicles restricting access to the neighborhood.

“I got invited by a few friends, we all grew up out here and went to junior high and high school together. We grew up in Canyon Country,” said Jeff Whitefield, 37, of Santa Clarita, who was standing with the Protect SCV group. “We’re just here to make sure the local merchants, local businesses, along with the mall, don’t get vandalized … We’re just here to support. Things do need to change, ya know? The way we handle things, the way police officers handle things. We’re not against police. But there are a few who are not doing things the right way.”

Another group at the intersection didn’t purport to be with Protect SCV or Black Lives Matter, but instead said they were there as Christians. 

“We’re representing Jesus, we’re not taking sides in this,” said Garrett Crawl, a pastor in Newhall, “except that Jesus loves peace, Jesus loves mercy and Jesus loves justice, so we’re just out here trying to keep the peace. … If anybody starts getting heated, and it looks like there’s going to be a fight or something, then we’ll just come in and say, ‘Hey, it’s OK, ya know. Everybody’s got their opinion and it’s a free country. Let’s try to keep it on a peaceful level.”

The protesters gathered at the intersection were joined by numerous media outlets.

Some residents said they remembered the last round of racial unrest after the trial of officers arrested for beating Rodney King, and felt that in the aftermath, there was nothing accomplished.

“I’m just out here for justice, not just for George Floyd. But for every human being because this has been going on for years. I was around when the Rodney King incident happened,” said Marie Ordaz, of Valencia, who was at the protest with her family. “And they protested and did the same, but then they ended up giving up halfway, and nothing was done. And here we are, many years later. And we’re encountering the same thing.” 

Three nurses said they walked about 25 minutes to join the protest at Four Corners on their lunch break. 

“We came just to show our support, our solidarity,” said SCV resident Emma DeSantiago, 46, “that we’re with the people supporting the black community and those protesting.” 

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