To protest the killing of George Floyd along with a rise in police violence targeting black people across the county, rallies and demonstrations are planned in San Mateo and Redwood City this week.
A Black Lives Matter protest is planned 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, in front of Redwood City Hall and the next day another rally is planned at 5 p.m. when demonstrators will march from San Mateo City Hall to the police station.
Meanwhile, a rally planned Monday in San Carlos was canceled due to concerns over inviting the rioting, looting and vandalism that scarred protests across the nation this weekend.
Recognizing fears that such unruly conduct could occur in Redwood City, officials recommended merchants protect their businesses by covering windows and removing outdoor furniture. In a rally notice circulated online, organizers encouraged protestors to wear masks and not destroy small businesses.
Walgreens and Target planned the shuttering of locations and limiting hours along the Peninsula to protect the safety of workers and SamTrans suspended service to San Francisco while the city’s curfew is in effect. Other local businesses, such as Shane Co. in San Mateo, Town restaurant in San Carlos and Safeway in Redwood City, took to boarding windows to protect against looting and rioting. The San Mateo County Courthouse will close at 3 p.m. Tuesday as well.
Redwood City Police Chief Dan Mulholland balanced the fears of violence locally against a condemnation of the police misconduct which led to Floyd’s death.
“I offer my condolences to the Floyd family and I encourage those of us who are hurt and angered by this even to find peaceful ways to unify and heal from this tragedy,” he said in a prepared statement. “Additional violence and destruction is not the answer and only serves to further erode who we are and what we stand for.”
Mulholland said he was outraged and angered by the footage released of Floyd’s death at the hands of four police officers, which he called tragic and shocking. He further suggested the tragedy fueled distrust of police, and expressed a commitment to building tighter bonds with the Redwood City community.
Redwood City Mayor Diane Howard shared her confidence in the police department’s ability to protect residents and businesses while keeping space for peaceful protest and drawing the line at violence.
“They won’t tolerate anarchy,” said Howard, of the local police department. Howard said she plans to attend the event, and while she is aware of some concern regarding looting, she is optimistic peace will prevail.
“We will be prepared if something should turn,” she said.
San Mateo Police Chief Ed Barberini denounced Floyd’s death in a prepared statement as well.
“The senseless tragedy of Mr. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis is another reminder of how much work we must do to promote a society where everyone is afforded equitable treatment and protections under the law,” he said in a prepared statement.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, Belmont Police Chief Tony Psaila and Jeff Azzopardi, South San Francisco police chief, released statements condemning Floyd’s death too. Meanwhile, peaceful protests occurred Monday in Menlo Park and Palo Alto and demonstrators in East Palo Alto disrupted traffic at ramps connecting to Highway 101.
Barberini is also hosting a virtual town hall 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, featuring local leaders including the president of the San Mateo chapter of the NAACP to discuss mounting tensions between police departments and the communities they serve. The discussion will address concerns held by residents regarding equal protection policies, officer accountability and militarization of the force, said San Mateo Mayor Joe Goethals, who will also be on the speaker panel.
Goethals said he is also planning to attend the rally and march through San Mateo, alongside community members and residents who are exhausted by injustice.
“We are going to facilitate a peaceful demonstration and all of the organizers who I’ve spoken with are equally committed to that,” he said.
As well, he recognized prevailing dangers posed both by the threat of violence from outside agitators, as well as the public health risk of coronavirus transmission in large groups.
Goethals said he will be wearing a mask and promoting social distancing at the event, and discouraged those with health risks from attending.
“I don’t recommend that people who fall into a vulnerable category who need to protect their health should participate,” he said.
He added San Mateo police officers will be providing traffic control to escort demonstrators along their route. And while no curfew is expected to be established, Goethals encouraged protestors to be mindful of their time.
“Demonstrate peacefully, but when the sun goes down, go home and take care of your health and safety,” he said.
He also expressed a commitment to defend both the rights of demonstrators as well as members of the local community.
“We’ll make sure that the police department is here to protect the protestors and protestors’ right and not allow the message of protesting injustice to be distorted by people who are more interested in violence or destruction,” he said.
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