As peaceful protests condemning police brutality rage across the nation, the mayor of San Diego said the violence that has followed some local demonstrations is not representative of those who want their voices heard.
“The violent acts of a few don’t represent the vast, vast majority of folks in our city that were peacefully protesting,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Tuesday.
Nearly 100 arrests were made Sunday night in downtown San Diego for failure to disperse, burglary, assaulting officers and vandalism, according to the San Diego Police Department. But the mayor said those who vandalized storefronts and looted after Sunday's peaceful protest don’t represent the city.
“They prove what we all already know,” Faulconer said. “That the fabric of this city is so much better than the misguided actions of a very few.”
SDPD Chief David Nisleit also said most protests in the city of San Diego have, so far, remained peaceful.
“Largely, again, our protesters were very peaceful,” Nisleit noted.
The chief said an additional 17 people were arrested Monday night.
Over the past few days, volunteers have been cleaning up the vandalism in downtown San Diego, boarding up broken windows and painting over graffiti.
Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, said more than 100 volunteers helped clean up the city Monday morning. This included demonstrators who wanted to help, Brennan said.
Over in La Mesa, volunteers also rolled up their sleeves and helped clean up the damage after a peaceful protest Saturday gave way to violence and looting that night.
Faulconer echoed what SDPD had been saying for several days: Peaceful protests are allowed, but violence is not.
“San Diegans have an absolute right to peacefully assemble and speak out against systemic racism and to express their concerns,” said the mayor. “People want change; they want to be heard. And I want to thank those San Diegans for their willingness to work with the San Diego Police Department to peacefully protest.”
But acts of violence, Faulconer said, will not be tolerated in San Diego.
“We won’t allow anyone to hijack this moment to perpetrate violence in our city,” Faulconer added. “Let’s use this moment as a community. Let’s use this moment to come together to see what we can do differently.”
“If you want to come here to not do peaceful protests, you will be arrested,” added Nisleit. “It’s that simple.”
The mayor said he directed the city’s police advisory and oversight boards to hold emergency meetings this week to discuss ways to bolster community and police relations.
One of those meetings – centered on the Citizens Advisory Board and police and community relations – was set for 6 p.m. Wednesday. The other, centered on the Community Review Board and police practices – was set to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Faulconer said part of those meetings would be focused on figuring out which policies need to be updated or changed.
“Because we’ve done things the same year after year, after year, doesn’t mean we need to continue doing it that way,” he added.
He said two main goals of the meetings would be to look at de-escalation recommendations that could be implemented by SDPD and increasing dialogue between police officers and the community.
“These meetings are opportunities for our community to continue to advocate for positive and lasting change,” he said. “Many are crying out to be heard. We are listening. Your city is listening. And now we want to turn those words into action.”
Both meetings can be seen on the city of San Diego’s YouTube page.
Norma Sandoval, board chair for the Citizens Advisory Board, said the organization promotes communication between the police department and residents, and always needs community input.
“If there was ever a time CAB needs to hear community input and policy change recommendations, it is now,” Sandoval explained.
Sharmaine Mosley, executive director for the Community Review Board on Police Practices, said that board reviews internal investigations by the police department, as well as in-custody deaths and officer-involved shootings.
The CRB makes police change recommendations to SDPD, too, 90 percent of which have been approved, according to Mosley.
“The CRB is always looking for ways to continue identifying community and police relations and engaging in those difficult conversations,” Mosley added.
Faulconer’s words on peaceful protests in San Diego County came one day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed that the voices of concern reverberating across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd are valid, real and raw.
“The black community is not responsible for what’s happening in this country right now; we are,” Newsom said at his Monday news briefing. “We are. Our institutions are responsible. We are accountable for this moment – let’s just call that out.”
“People have lost patience because they haven’t seen progress,” the governor added, saying leaders and the communities across the nation needed to truly start listening.
“For those of you who are out there, protesting, I want you to know: You matter,” Newsom said. “And I want you to know: I care, we care. And I don’t want to demonstrate that rhetorically, I want you to know: I have a unique responsibility to prove that to you, not just assert it. You’ve lost patience, so have I. You are right to feel wronged.”
Newsom also called out the vandals and looters who have followed peaceful protests across the state.
“To those who want to exploit this moment, that want to flame the violence and fear, we hear you, as well, but we don’t have the same sensitivities as it relates to those who are trying to exercise their voice from a place of hurt and pain,” he said. “When you try to cause pain on others – when you’re out there to exploit conditions, not advance the cause of justice – that is not serving the greater good, and we need to also call that out.”
The protests in San Diego and beyond followed the May 25 death of George Floyd, 46, who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a now ex-officer put him face-down on the pavement and kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as Floyd pleaded for air.
That officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested on murder and manslaughter charges. On Wednesday, three other now ex-officers who were also at the scene of the fatal arrest of Floyd were charged. Chauvin's murder charge was also upgraded Wednesday.