A peaceful protest against the murder of George Floyd turned violent Monday evening when law enforcement officers used riot equipment to disperse demonstrators.
The standoff began after approximately 450 protestors, some of whom had been walking since 2:00 p.m., took an eight minute, 46 second moment of silence in memory of the amount of time a Minneapolis policeman kneeled on George Floyd’s neck.
After the group continued walking, the protestors were met with a police line at the corner of Santa Rosa and Walnut. Many of the officers wore riot gear.
After an hour-long standoff, the event organizer, who asked to not be named, attempted to disbanded the protest. However, only about 50 people left and the rest remained on the scene.
“I want to make sure you all know that if you stay here and keep pushing the line, you will get teargassed and arrested. They have made it really clear, explicitly and in the amount of police cars here, that they are going to be aggressive,” the organizer said.
With the majority of the crowd remaining at the intersection, at 8:13 p.m. law enforcement from across the county advanced with tear gas, shields, flash bangs, a helicopter and a plane.
There were approximately 110 officers at the corner of Santa Rosa and Walnut. Multiple agencies assisted San Luis Obispo Police, including Cal Poly Police, Grover Beach Police, California Department of Corrections and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff.
Cal Poly Police holds mutual aid agreements with all other local law enforcement agencies, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. Under these arrangements, departments agree to provide additional officers as needed when other agencies require additional response in order to address emergencies and provide for the safety of the public.
Over the course of the night, officers arrested seven people for breaking 409 PC, the California law making it a crime to remain at an unlawful assembly after being ordered to leave. Their court dates are October 1, according to the SLO Sheriff’s log. San Luis Obispo Police arrested five, the sheriff arrested one, and Paso Robles Police arrested one.
A city report said the line was establish to prevent protestors from re-entering Highway 101. The protestors blocked both sides of the highway earlier, but there were no plans to re-block the highway. When the police line was made, the protest organizer said they were told to stop because “they had gone on long enough, we’re putting a stop to this.”
When protestors took a knee at Santa Rosa and Higuera, organizer asked if they wanted to keep marching. The group collectively said yes. She asked where they wanted to go, and the group said Santa Rosa. She led the group along Santa Rosa, but along the way up there was no talk of re-entering the highway.
Black empowerment, civic engagement and police reform
Protestors focused on black empowerment, civic engagement and police reform.
“If you really are with us today, be sure to come November and vote,” one protestor said when given the megaphone by the organizer.
“Being peaceful and going along and waiting for things to happen has not worked,” the organizer said, saying the civil rights movement was not entirely peaceful.
“What happened after Ferguson? What did they do? Nothing. We gotta organize, we gotta keep it happening,” another protestor said.
“We hope that the police get our point of view because in the long run our job is not done,” another said.
The protest in San Luis Obispo was declared an unlawful assembly after it was determined that there were public safety risks. The protest was mostly peaceful and lasted for 6 hrs. Protesters were asked to disperse with some taken into custody. Avoid Santa Rosa/Mill and adjacent.
— Deanna Cantrell (@slopdchief) June 2, 2020
The police log showed one case of vandalism that night, 10:19 at the Shoe Palace where a small group of people broke the window. However, Mayor Heidi Harmon said in a statement that “several storefronts” in San Luis Obispo had been damaged.
The military has to stop selling their surplus to the police,” Everett Hitch said. “No-knock warrants shouldn’t be a thing, illegal search and seizure shouldn’t be a thing.”
“Anyone scared about the freeway? I heard some of you were scared. Cause we’re scared every single day. But you protected each other. I want to see that same mentality in real life,” another protestor said.