Santa Rosa to Impose Curfew after Second Night of Destructive Behavior

After two straight nights of destructive and sometimes violent street protests, Santa Rosa is set to enter a state of local emergency, laying the groundwork for City Manager Sean McGlynn to impose a curfew beginning tonight at 8 p.m., according to a city spokeswoman Monday morning.

Santa Rosa spokeswoman Adriane Mertens said the city will move on the emergency option Monday, following violence downtown overnight that included looting and thousands of dollars of property damage. Downtown buildings were also hit on Saturday night, with windows broken at businesses and churches and anti-police graffiti scrawled across various structures.

The recent protests are a response to the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a black man, for nearly nine minutes, leading to murder and manslaughter charges for one officer involved. His death, which was caught on video, is the latest instance of an unarmed person of color dying at the hands of American law enforcement, and his name has become a rallying cry for protesters demanding justice and change. 

Santa Rosa police arrested one person suspected of looting at the downtown Plaza mall early Monday and said thousands of dollars of damage had been done to city and private property overnight in continuing unrest stemming from demonstrations against police brutality.

The curfew is intended to aid law enforcement by clearly delineating a time by which any peaceful protests Monday must conclude, said Mayor Tom Schwedhelm, a former Santa Rosa police chief. He noted that the recent demonstrations — a collective response mirroring nationwide unrest stemming 

“Due to the last two nights’ events, we feel for the safety of this community that we have to do this curfew,” Schwedhelm said. “Not an enviable position to be in.”

Schwedhelm noted that response times for calls for service elsewhere in the city could be longer due to the heavy use of police resources downtown when monitoring large demonstrations by peaceful protesters and subsequent acts of violence and vandalism.

“We are doing everything we can to make it was safe as possible for everyone,” he said, “and we are relying on the professionalism of the Santa Rosa Police Department to do that in the best way possible.”

Protests began peacefully around 5 p.m. Sunday, police Lt. Jeneane Kucker said. But three hours later, groups of people began blocking the intersection of Third Street and Santa Rosa Avenue.

Several subjects were using spray paint on the street and objects on Old Courthouse Square, she said.

By 9 p.m., some in the crowd moved west to the Third Street onramp to Highway 101.

“Protesters engaged with officers, but remained peaceful and did not get onto the freeway,” Kucker said. “Eventually, a few protesters began throwing water bottles at officers, who were blocking the off-ramp to northbound Highway 101.”