People tell mayor, council they should have showed more support at protest
Tension rose Tuesday during the first Santa Barbara City Council meeting since the murder of George Floyd.
People attending the meeting criticized Mayor Cathy Murillo for not taking a knee during a protest Sunday in Santa Barbara. They were also critical of other council members for failing to be at the protest.
But before people voiced their concerns during the public comments period, Ms. Murillo took a knee in Mr. Floyd’s honor during the meeting’s Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Murillo also read a statement: “I would like to open this meeting with a moment of silence for George Floyd, who lost his life in a brutal manner at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
“Mr. Floyd, we are thinking of you and I want you to know that I pledge to do everything that I can to reject and eliminate institutionalized racism in our society,” Ms. Murillo said. “I honor the work of our local Black Lives Matter group and the regional NAACP. And I look forward to connecting with you all and anyone who’s committed to social justice work.”
Ms. Murillo gave other city council members time to express their thoughts about the murder of Mr. Floyd.
“The protests this weekend were justified,” Mayor Pro Tempore Kristen Sneddon said. “They didn’t come from a singular tragedy. A singular tragedy is what lit the fuse, a fuse that has been building for generations and decades.”
Ms. Sneddon continued by calling racism “a public health crisis” and said that it’s a dark time when “an innocent human can be killed in broad daylight, complicit with law enforcement.”
“I want to say that I acknowledge that black lives are not safe, black voices are not heard, black income is not equitable, black lives are more heavily impacted by COVID, more at risk for infection, more at risk of job loss,” Ms. Sneddon said.
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said she wants to, “elevate the voices of our black neighbors” inside the Santa Barbara community. Ms. Harmon then expressed her support for a civilian complaint review board as well as a slight change to the city council’s agenda reports that would add a discussion on socio-economic impacts.
Ms. Harmon believes that the small change to the council agenda report would help hold the council accountable, “to the values that we proclaim.”
Council members Oscar Gutierrez, Mike Jordan and Alejandra Gutierrez voiced their support to Ms. Harmon’s change to the council agenda report.
“The peaceful demonstration reflects the large community and the dissatisfaction with the maltreatment of Black lives and the disenfranchised people in American society,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “The outcome from the murder of George Floyd pushed people from all over the globe to stand in solidarity with people who recognize system barriers and institutionalized racial arrangements in the U.S. We belong to each other, and we must hold leadership accountable.”
Following the council members opening statements, many citizens criticized the city council about how they have handled the recent rise in racial tensions, such as Mayor Murillo’s failure to take a knee during the peaceful Black Lives Matter protest last Sunday at the County Courthouse Sunken Garden.
Amara Teague was the first citizen to express her opinion about the mayor’s inaction.
“I appreciate you taking the time to make it clear now, but they needed it then,” Ms. Teague said.
She and others told the council they wish there had been more support for organizers of Sunday’s protest.
Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino followed Ms.Teague in expressing her disappointment with both the mayor and the Santa Barbara Police Department. Ms. Rizo-Centino is the president of La Casa de la Raza, a nonprofit whose goal is to empower the Latino community.
“We were shocked and dismayed by Mayor Murillo’s insensitivity,” Ms. Rizo-Centino said. “Her alignment with police as they refused to join protestors in condemning the murder of George Floyd was disturbing and deeply saddening.”
Anna Gott joined by expressing her disappointment with the council.
“Neither the mayor or anyone else on city council, who were all M.I.A. could take a knee at the police station, and I’d really like to know why,” Ms. Gott said. “Frankly I don’t believe that anything has fundamentally changed here today even with all these nice speeches. That is because I don’t trust the city council to live up to what they just talked about.”
Mr. Gutierrez responded to Ms. Gott’s comments by stating that he was in fact at the protests on Sunday.
Following the citizens’ criticism of the city’s leadership during the open public discussion with the council members, Mayor Murillo closed by saying, “I just want the public to know, and our city councilmembers to know, that I see you, and I’ll be asking Mr. Casey how we would bring back the Black Lives Matter demands and the time table for doing so. And hearing my colleagues speak at the beginning of the meeting, I am perceiving that we are embracing those demands.”