Approximately 100 protesters gathered on the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station lawn in support of Black Lives Matter on Friday.
Groups of people sat down on the grass with their backs turned to the station, stood on the street corners of Magic Mountain Parkway and Valencia Boulevard and chanted as they walked across the intersection waving signs. A number of them said they were protesting the current state of policing in the United States.
Protesters repeatedly discussed a viral video that showed Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies with their guns drawn on a group of teenagers holding skateboards — their response to a report of an assault involving the teens, which was later questioned by city staff, county Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who called for an investigation into the incident days later and suspended one of the deputies involved.
Witnesses contend the teens were the victims of the assault. Sheriff’s officials have declined comment. The teenagers were detained but eventually let go, and no charges were filed.
A number of the demonstrators said the video, while shocking to them, was evidence of systemic problems in regard to race relations and policing.
“There is rampant racism in Santa Clarita and it manifests itself in the implicit bias that gets the cops called on three Black teenagers who are trying to defend themselves,” Ramy Wahba, 18, of Canyon Country. “And if we’re not speaking out about it then no one will.”
Since the incident, it has been clarified that two of the teenagers were Black, and one was white.
Wahba described his emotional reaction to seeing the video as being “appalled” and “really disappointed.”
He, along with other demonstrators, offered some institutional changes they wanted to see, changes they said drove them to protest.
“I would like to see more vetting of people they hire, I would like to see social workers and more psychologists, and more people with education be planted on a board to give advice,” said Meta King, 62, of Valencia. “And I would like to see more people hired from this community to serve in these offices. Not people from outside the community coming into work.”
Megan Duncan, 21, of Saugus, said one of the underlying messages of the protest was to “defund” the police, meaning, as she said, that resources be reallocated not toward law enforcement but to those social workers and programs that might be able to mitigate many of the problems that lead to crime.
“What we mean is to put the money into people who actually know how to de-escalate situations,” said Duncan.