Glendale Officials Address Message of Protests

In the coming months, the City Council expects to consider a report from City Manager Yasmin Beers that would outline potential new policies for the city to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in its staffing and operations.
This discussion may also include a dive into how to address, if at all, nationwide calls to “defund the police,” in which protesters speaking out against institutional racism and police brutality are demanding that funding for police departments be redistributed in part to other social and public health programs.
“We want to do some research and have something that is well thought out,” Beers told the City Council.
During Tuesday’s meeting, council members spoke in light of Sunday’s march through downtown in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“They were so articulate and passionate, you could not help but be swept up by their emotion and by their message,” Councilwoman Paula Devine said Tuesday. “I think as a council and as a city that we have to begin taking steps toward the goal of reform and social justice and racial justice in our city. We’ve come far from the sundown days, but we have further to go.”
Devine was referencing decades prior, when Glendale was a notorious “sundown town,” which meant black men and women were targeted with violence if found in city limits after work hours and were not permitted to buy homes here. Additionally, the American Nazi Party maintained an office in downtown as recently as the 1980s and a Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan once considered Glendale home.
Devine also indicated an interest in exploring the merits of the “8 Can’t Wait” platform of Campaign Zero, an organization that advocates for law enforcement reform.
Sunday’s demonstration showcased a stark contrast to those days, as more than 1,500 took to the streets and joined countless others throughout the nation and world in decrying the in-custody death of George Floyd after he was arrested by the Minneapolis Police Department in March.
Councilman Dan Brotman, who had earlier suggested the city in some manner acknowledge its dark past, supported the city having a broader discussion on how to better acknowledge structural racial disparities moving forward. He added that he has been forced to reckon with his past obliviousness with regard to racial issues.
“We owe a debt to the people whose opportunities have been squashed because of the color of their skin or conditions of their birth,” Brotman said.
To their credit, all prominent city officials have signaled support for the protesters and their calls for reform, though while also critiquing the instances of violence and looting that have followed some of the earlier demonstrations in metropolitan areas. The Glendale Police Department this week suspended its use of the carotid hold, a neck-hold designed to incapacitate a subject but has become associated with police brutality.
Police Chief Carl Povilaitis previously stated that the carotid hold had never been authorized as a response during his tenure with the department. Until recently, GPD’s guiding principles indicated that use of “chokeholds” was forbidden “unless a life-threatening situation exists and no other reasonable options exist.”
The decision this week, made in observance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to immediately end training and use of the neck-hold, would appear to remove all ambiguity from the guiding principles.
Councilman Ara Najarian praised the conduct of GPD during Sunday’s march, which included blocking motorist traffic along the way to protect on-foot marchers.
“I only saw professional, dedicated, sensitive work by our police, especially during the large march — there were a lot of people there — and the vigil,” he said. “The officers were sensitive. They were discreet in their presence. They were accommodating and I want to thank the police chief and everyone who was a part of that.”
Najarian noted that the last time Glendale saw demonstrations resembling this was during the Velvet Revolution in Armenia, which successfully and peacefully toppled the nation’s government and sent elated members of Glendale’s Armenian diaspora to the streets first in protest and then in celebration.
Contrasting Devine, Najarian added he would not entertain any notion of defunding GPD.
“Look what’s going on around the country,” he said. “I will take Glendale police any day of the week, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other agency out there. I don’t care. And I’m not going to defund the police, no matter how this discussion goes, never.”
Councilman Ardy Kassakhian echoed his peers in seeking a more proactive and just future for their city, and reminded colleagues and viewers that education very often starts at home.
“Ultimately, if we can teach our children well and make sure they grow up to be better adults than we have been, we will have hopefully a society in which we won’t see the types of events that have rocked our nation over the course of the last few weeks,” Kassakhian said.

Leave a Reply