Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

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Mayor Cathy Murillo kneeling during the virtual City Council meeting while saying the "Pledge of Allegiance"

By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

Nearly sixty community members held Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo accountable during public comment Tuesday for her refusal to kneel with protestors and listen to Black Lives Matter activists at a recent protest.

The virtual City Council meeting started with Murillo stating she would take a knee in honor of George Floyd during the Pledge of Allegiance before having a moment of silence.

"Mr. Floyd we are thinking of you and I pledge to do everything I can to reject and eliminate institutionalized racism in our society," said Murillo while praising Black Lives Matter and the NAACP. 

Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by four police officers last week in Minneapolis. He was handcuffed lying face down on a city street during an arrest while a white police officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. He was later pronounced dead.

The murder sparked outrage that has rapidly spread throughout the United States, and eventually overseas, with marches, protests, and rallies. 

The local chapter of Black Lives Matter held a peaceful rally on Sunday against police brutality with approximately 3,000 attendees at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. A march followed where protestors were faced with approximately twenty officers in full riot gear and an armored vehicle behind police tape in the 200 block of E. Figueroa Street, where the department is located.

Members of the Black community lying on the ground while supporters kneel in solidarity during Sunday's protest

Murillo stepped out from behind the police line and attempted to engage with protest leaders Simone Ruskamp and Krystle Farmer Sieghart. Murillo was asked to listen but attempted to talk over the two women.

During a peaceful demonstration where members of the Black community laid on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time Floyd was held on the ground, members of the non-black community were asked to kneel in solidarity. The crowd extended this offer to everyone behind the police tape, they all declined. 

Following the protest, Black Lives Matter Santa Barbara issued a set of demands asking for the protection and preservation of Black landmarks, transparency and accountability from local law enforcement, recognition of Juneteenth commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation, and the City Council adopts a resolution condemning police brutality and declares racism a public health emergency.

For over two hours of public comment on Tuesday, community members passionately expressed their disappointment with Murillo's lack of solidarity, empathy, and action. Some were high school students who cried while discussing the inequalities they face and how fearful they are of law enforcement.

Others called Murillo "tone-deaf" for issuing a press release following the protest. The statement, released on Murillo's behalf, recognized the death of Floyd and applauded Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow for "courageous leadership," but failed to mention the peaceful protest, its leaders, and Black Lives Matter.

"We're going through a pandemic and we [brought] 3,000 of your constituents to stand with black lives, call out corruption and police brutality," said Sieghart. "Do your jobs, hold yourselves accountable for the harm caused in this community, do better."

Ruskamp called for the Mayor's resignation stating she was fine asking Black people to help get her elected but has been absent since her tenure. 

"Mayor, I expect you to resign, your actions have already spoken for you. You still have not reached out to either leader of the protest after you yelled in our faces and issued a statement and thanked the chief," said Ruskamp. "You all should be ashamed. The community is watching."

During the course of two hours, Murillo said few words beyond "thank you" and "next caller" between comments. 

Frustration and anger were also directed at Chief Luhnow for the presentation of officers in riot gear. Many expressed their fear of such a "militarized presence," while others wondered why the police responded in such a way when in previous protests officers assisted with traffic control and marched alongside protestors.

Santa Barbara Police in riot gear during a peaceful protest on Sunday

Several commenters urged the City Council to decrease funding to the police department and reject the proposal for a new police station while instead rerouting those funds to community services.

"Black people have been saying for centuries that the police are not safe, that institutions are not safe... you all saw with your own eyes what happened on Sunday. You saw that even as Black people laid down their bodies in front of the police in Santa Barbara, they continued to stand, and snicker, and intimidate," said Ruskamp in a Facebook video following the protest.

Chief Luhnow jumped into the virtual meeting to answer a question posed by Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez who asked where she was and why officers were in riot gear.

"We've had officers in [Los Angeles] actively deployed in riots that have been violent. Our training dictates we wear extra gear when we do that. I'm not saying we saw that violence here, but I'm saying we can do better than we did," said Luhnow. "We're at our best when our community partners are with us and we're not trained to be in vulnerable positions but that is the learning that needs to occur."

Chief Luhnow continued to say she has the willingness to participate in acts of solidarity and will use this as an opportunity to listen and grow. She also stated she was returning to Santa Barbara and wasn't present for the protest while Murillo identified herself as the representative to speak with protestors. 

"I apologize if I could have done a better job and I certainly want to connect with [Ruskamp and Sieghart] as we go forward," said Murillo.

All city councilmembers expressed support for the protest and agreed to discuss the demands brought forth by the Black Lives Matter leaders.

Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said the protest was justified and didn't come from a singular tragedy, while vowing to listen and take action.

"Racism is a public health crisis, we are a part of the structural inequity... it's time for us to all acknowledge and act now for concrete change," she said.

Councilmember Meagan Harmon stated the demands were a gift the council didn't deserve and they provide a roadmap for how the city can stand with the Black community. 

"My job today... as an ally and councilmember is to amplify and elevate the voices of black leaders, black activists," said Harmon.

She specifically called out the creation of a civilian complaint review board stating she's advocated for this for many years and is committed to seeing this through. She additionally put forth an action item to make a change to council agenda reports to include socioeconomic impacts for each item. 

City Administrator Paul Casey said his team will be prepared to bring an agenda item to the council next week to discuss the demands.

One point all public commenters seemed to echo was that words are one thing, action is another, and they're watching and waiting.

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x01660 Jun 02, 2020 09:32 PM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Like I said a few days ago, things are gonna get REALLY interesting around election time. Murillo, you are an ineffectual mayor. You should retain what dignity and grace you have left and resign your post. Call it in the interest of the City, whatever you have to do to make your exit "look good". But you are no good for our town. You failed us when we needed you most; in a crisis. And just like some marriage vows: If you can't handle us at our worst, you don't deserve us at our best. Time to exit stage left, "Mayor".

a-1591164624 Jun 02, 2020 11:10 PM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

I listened to all that public comment today, and cannot agree with you. There are many who voted for her thinking she would do something real to address racial inequity, and when it mattered the most, she didn't. In full view, on Instagram. The groups upset with her over this are respected community orgs in this community. It's not a smear when everyone saw the same thing, and was highly disappointed because what could have been real solidarity was wasted.

a-1591214402 Jun 03, 2020 01:00 PM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

She has no problem standing with people who defaced the NP building because they published a story about “illegal aliens” instead of “ Undocumented citizens”. She had no problems standing with those who harassed a local business owner on Milpas St who wanted an improvement district. Cathy only stands with Light brown people.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jun 03, 2020 12:20 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

COVID-19 and the Floyd riots have the potential to change the political landscape in this country, from local to state and federal levels. There are still five months to go, so how long people hold on to their frustration is in question. Americans are forgiving and have short attention spans, which coupled with the 24 hour news cycle and the inevitable news stories that will dominate the summer, they may not feel the same way about COVID-19 and Floyd in November. None of us saw COVID-19 coming, and once in the middle of the shutdown, we didn't not imagine Floyd. I recall the 2016 election thinking that each candidate was down for the count on a weekly basis, only to be shocked at their resurrection. Don't count anything out at this point.

sbmh2015 Jun 03, 2020 01:01 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Santa Barbara city needs to update election rules for Mayor. Most cities require a Mayor to have 50% minimum voter approval to win. Ms. Murillo was elected I believe with less than 25% of the vote. There should be a run off between here and next highest vote % candidate. Our town is getting too big to have ineffectual city council.

a-1591210568 Jun 03, 2020 11:56 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

100% Correct! Leadership starts at the top and our city's leadership is weak. A mayor elected with only 25% of the votes should not happen here. It makes a travesty out of having the majority playing some kind of major role in the election of a public official. Trump was elected by a minority of the voters because the Electoral College is flawed in the 20th Century and should be changed. The issue is that with Murillo, a full 75% of our people did not want her as our mayor. They were right in their assessment of her and it looks like some of the 25% who did vote for her have second thoughts as well.

a-1591203518 Jun 03, 2020 09:58 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

I'm trying to follow your logic: No one reads the NP. Most everyone hates the NP. No one likes the owner of the NP. Everyone disagrees with the owner of the NP. The NP is going the way of the dinosaurs. Advertisers fleeing.....blah, blah, blah....and yet, the owner of the NP is a behind the scenes power player who is responsible for what? Really? She has that kind of power? She has that kind of control? How is it possible? Please help me understand how the owner of the NP holds all this power? All the money in the world can't cause racial inequality, but go on, explain......

ginger1 Jun 03, 2020 01:36 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Thank you, Lauren, for taking the time to write an actual piece of journalism on EdHat. Well done! Not so well done actions and words from our mayor and police chief. Our city council and mayor are amateurs trying to play roles for which they are ill equipped. On the job training *might* work in our little town but I've seen some big failures here. Not just today. Apologies and corrections are due, not next week or next month but tomorrow, now, and if not, resignations would work for me. I do not give Police Chief Luhnow a pass because she was not here. It's still her job and she failed, too. Thanks to the rally organizers and 3,000 of us who did the right thing, as we should expect in our little town. Now we must assure the goals are realized and work toward that, every day.

Ehdat Jun 03, 2020 05:53 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Although the optics look real bad, the police were trying to prepare for the worst. Unless nobody paid attention the nation has seen 5 straight days of protest, that include rioting and nefarious looting, vandalizing and arson. Business tenants expressed real fear as social media were a buzz about groups moving to more affluent areas such as Santa Barbara. Nobody thought cities like La Mesa, Ca would be a target either. In the Bay Area up north, social media traced planned outings in more affluent places like Walnut Creek, which resulted in some actual looting (whereby other targeted towns such as Danville took real boarded up the entire town.) Please keep the protests peaceful, but dont be surprised when the Police come prepared based on what has been happening. Thanks to our black leaders for speaking up!

a-1591206718 Jun 03, 2020 10:51 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Please stop with the "Police lives matter" crap. Yes of course they matter, we all know that and they make it abundantly clear. They are also the ones with the guns, tanks, and gear killing innocent unarmed citizens. Their lives matter MORE than people of color, that's the whole point of this thing. By saying "all lives matter" or "police lives matter" or "blue lives matter" is canceling out the movement that's essentially saying, hey Black Lives Matter too so stop killing us.

a-1591193295 Jun 03, 2020 07:08 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Are you kidding me? People complaining about how the police were geared up?? Did they treat the protesters poorly? Our precious city is reeling from the quarantine with businesses closing and going bankrupt... we simply cannot chance having a valid protest turn violent and damage our city like has happened, and is continuing to happen, all over the country. Its turned into mob rule in so many places. How were any of us in SB to know if the protesters here on Sunday weren't going to turn into rioters? It only takes a few bad apples to start the process and ruin the true intentions of those who are peacefully protesting. I abhor the whole militarization of our police forces... or the fact that they feel they need to be militarized... cameras everywhere, smart phones being tracked... its all a very scary feeling... I side with Ed Snowden on that. But for the most part, SB is a peaceful place with people of all backgrounds and ethnicities celebrating the beauty of living here. We personally struggle financially everyday to live here, but we feel its worth it. When massive crowds from out of town come here to our little town to protest, I am glad our police force is keeping us and our businesses from being destroyed.

a-1591207269 Jun 03, 2020 11:01 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Police are paid by all of our tax dollars to PROTECT US, not to gear up and get ready to fight people who are peacefully protesting. That's the whole issue here. If they were worried about violence, walk with us, show solidarity, protect us from some rare person who might get violent. This was the completely wrong approach and contributes to the us vs them mentality.

DBD Jun 03, 2020 11:17 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Not a fan of the police personally, but keep in mind protecting US has different sides if these peaceful protests took a turn. If i was a property owner or business owner in the area i might have a different perspective, having witnessed some of the happenings in other parts of the country.

reloadSB Jun 03, 2020 05:51 PM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

They clearly were not geared up and ready to fight people who are peacefully protesting. Want to know how we know, because the police and the protesters were all peaceful. Do you think Minneapolis residents are safer after the police department was burned down? You're right that our tax dollars go to protecting us, mostly because CA Government has never heard of the 2nd Amendment. The police are reactive while the rioters and looters are proactive and have made plans. The police have to be as ready as they can be. They cannot run back inside the building to take 10 minutes to get their riot gear on when bricks and bottles are being thrown at them.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jun 03, 2020 07:16 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Murillo was never qualified to lead a town the size and scale of Santa Barbara. She has never been up to the job. She has shown no management skills, no business acumen, no people skills and no leadership skills. She is a wet noodle totally inept at her core duties and has proven to be the worst mayor our town has ever seen. A sad result during a time when we need smart, capable and strong leadership. Make no mistake Santa Barbara is going broke very fast and the city, led by Murillo and her lackeys, has folded to the public employee unions. Instead of cutting headcount and expenses, she gave them RAISES!!! We are down 90% in TOT, 50% in sales tax and many signals that the worst is yet to come. And yet she gives raises to her fellow city workers when we have 25% unemployment and a town full of fear and confusion. She should resign and move out of state but she wont. She thinks she is doing a "heck of a job" and wants a promotion. Instead, we the people should remove her from office and chase her out of town.

PitMix Jun 03, 2020 08:45 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

SBO, you never voted for her, right? Unless you voted for someone who was never qualified to lead this town. So her main concern is not your criticism but whether she has lost support from her base and the Democratic Party. She's a little bit too thin-skinned for a politician but in general the decisions the City has made during this (400 people laid off, allowing businesses to use the sidewalk) have been pro-active and business friendly.

mjackman44 Jun 03, 2020 09:09 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Thickness of skin seems more important than color these days! One has to have an incredible resilience to take on unfair slams and personal attacks, with inappropriate, insulting language hurled at our Mayor, along with vicious accusations that cannot be backed up. When did we Santa Barbara folks decide to become totally "barbaric" in our politics as it seems we are now. We have a liberal based political state and city-- is this to be hatefully driven? This incident reveals the need to assist all races to survive? Since the beginning of our City (1782) we have done that.. Okay, start over--blacks, first--what do they want, need? If criminal in intent, how are we supposed to treat them? When do we not do this here? We are not going to destroy actual history by being emotional "blackmailed" (pun intended). There is significant positive black history here if we choose to single it out and share it. Time to honor all complaints rationally not racially please. Does violence, and anarchic thinking or mudslinging work? We have women with good intentions in many key positions now. Let's respect them as well for what they contribute and have to endure. Politics does not have to be dirty nor ugly!!!!

a-1591343748 Jun 05, 2020 12:55 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

MJ - “We have women with good intentions in many key positions now. Let's respect them as well for what they contribute and have to endure.”
What?! That was quite a condescending comment, there are women with “good intentions” in key positions.? What exactly have we had to endure in SB? Nothing compared to an African American person anywhere in this country. You do realize for the last 50 years there have only been two city Mayors that were men? And one only served a year in office. Pearl Chase was a woman who helped shape the city we see today. Maria Ygnacia a powerful Chumash leader, yet another woman for girls to learn from. Lutah Riggs first woman architect in SB. Alice Keck Park saved a perfect square downtown from an 11 story monstrosity. A beautiful park will remain in perpetuity thanks to her. The list goes on and on. The Zoo , the bird refuge both lands owned by a woman . Women have been community leaders in Santa Barbara for a long long time. We need to listen, learn from and respect each other for all that we each bring to the table. Women of every color should be able to hold their heads high. You have something to learn from every person you meet. If every woman realized the power they have we would be running this country and doing a way better job of it.

a-1591197800 Jun 03, 2020 08:23 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Not a big Murillo fan but what she did was absolutely reasonable. She engaged the group and then didn’t blindly follow their lead or demands. That’s what a mayor is supposed to do. Calling for her resignation (on this issue) is dumb, naive, entitled and Crazy. She tried to talk, they didn’t want to listen. So that discussion can be had another day in a constructive setting. And the police bashing is silly. There are hundreds of thousands of police officers. None of them are perfect and some are bad. Same as any group. But by and large they are a great group that help us and keep us safe and demanding they be defunded is dumb. And like everything in our current society, this wasn’t the “community taking her to task” it was an entitled vocal few that were mostly young and clueless.

a-1591245837 Jun 03, 2020 09:43 PM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

She responded like any person that has no real understanding of the struggles blacks have and continue to face to exist in this country. The problem for her was the needle moved - other cities' mayors and police chiefs showed solidarity with Black Lives Matter, openly. She clearly doesn't follow national news. So when they called for solidarity Sunday, she was behind police tape, and then talked over the black women - the exact wrong moves. She's not a leader. She should not be our mayor. People are finally seeing it.

aragorn Jun 03, 2020 09:17 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

When election comes around for SB City Mayor and there aren't any good moderate Dems to run against Murillo, I'll vote for a good moderate Republican that hopefully can bring good positive change for SB. I will support and volunteer on their campaign. A Republican who is not a Trump supporter. (Or a good Libertarian.)

a-1591201959 Jun 03, 2020 09:32 AM
Community Takes Mayor Murillo to Task for Inaction During Sunday's Protest

Our mayor didn't kneel and some of you believe she should have? And you want to be in charge? I'd rather she's is our mayor for the next 40 years than to have you tell us how to think, act, and vote. When everything that you disagree with is described as Hate and Racist...then none of it is. When "can't we agree to disagree" is no longer an option, it's over. Now we have the "be afraid, be very/very afraid" to disagree with us crowd.


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