OIR Group, the organization tasked with analyzing the events that led up to and followed the civil unrest that occurred in Santa Monica this year, continued its efforts this week by hosting a listening session with residents who were affected by the events of May 31.
The two-hour listening session was held Tuesday with Michael Gennaco, a former federal prosecutor who is heading the after-action analysis efforts, his team at OIR Group and a few dozen residents. Some, like one former resident who said she moved away from the town because they felt abandoned by the police, detailed their discontent with the situation but others were more understanding with the matters.
Craig Miller, a cancer survivor who headed out to the protest on May 31, 2020, said the decision to attend the local George Floyd demonstration was one he really gave a lot of thought to. There were a lot of risks but it soon became apparent there was a need to be in the street and make noise on behalf of what was occurring, Miller said Tuesday.
“I was only out for an hour. But it happened to be the key hour from 3 to 4 in the afternoon,” he added, detailing how he heard no call for people to leave the street the entire time he was out at the peaceful protest. “I heard no warning from the police officers; I heard no order to disperse; No indication that this was an illegal assembly. But I was present to see, at not too far of a distance, the surreal scene of police officers doing what sure looked like loading their weapons — with what sure looked like tear gas canisters. And then they were fired in our direction.”
Locals would continue to share their personal experiences from the day. A few, like Miller, found themselves in the midst of the demonstration with families while others said they were caught in the chaos that unfolded at the Third Street Promenade.
Longtime resident and former elected official Mike Feinstein said he was made aware from sources outside of Santa Monica that other interests were competing for the attention of the National Guard, and the federal troops ended up in Santa Monica later than preferred, “in part, because of that tug of war,” Feinstein said. “And I see that as making a bad situation worse (because) had they been able to come earlier, they may have been able to intervene. And I think that that lack of intervention also impacted our city council elections in a not insignificant way so the implications were bad — both on May 31 and for the future.”
Feinstein asked if the city report will inform residents about the significance of jurisdictions competing for the attention of the National Guard. “And then number two, whether there is going to be any policy suggestions about how to avoid cities competing over the National Guard and having it become a zero-sum game with losers like we were on May 31st?”
Gennaco said mutual-aid and the deployment of resources are both topics that OIR Group intends to encompass into the coming reviews. “There will be follow up and this report is intended to be an unvarnished report of what happened. In our view, that’s the only way it can be in order for us to be better prepared as a community for similar events in the future.”
With so many ways to document the events of the world nowadays, OIR Group has a wealth of material from the time period. “So we are confident… we’ll have sufficient information upon which we can then move to our next phase, which is to provide recommendations,” Gennaco said. The listening session is a critical step in OIR Group’s process of producing a final comprehensive report, “so we really appreciate your willingness to spend some time with us. We appreciate all of your comments… and we look forward to being able to share a final report with you.”
A full recording of Tuesday’s session can be found online at bit.ly/2Kn5RAn