Culver City Police Chief Scott Bixby was candid. “We have no interest in being immigration enforcement. We never have and we never will.” Reinforcing yet again that the job of the police was to address crime and to address all criminal actions equally, Bixby has been consistent in his position since the federal election in November. The CCPD has done significant outreach to the community on the issue, and as he emphasized again last night, the chief’s position has not wavered.
The city council meeting of Monday, March 27 was extraordinary, the most notable being several people disrupting the meeting who came to object to the ‘sanctuary’ motion. Sensing that the protestors were spoiling for a fight, Mayor Jim Clarke addressed the crowd just before the meeting was called to order, noting that speakers would have two minutes to address the council, and that decorum was crucial to keeping order.
The number of local voters in attendance was far greater, and the support to declare the city as a sanctuary was broadcast through the room by the dozens and dozens of people holding small printed signs that said “Sanctuary Now.” The pro-sanctuary to anti-sanctuary speakers held an almost ten to one ratio.
The protestors, dressed in matching cheaply screened t-shirts with Republican slogans and “Make America Great Again” baseball caps, carried crude hand made signs with pictures of Federal Attorney General Jeff Sessions and angry slogans. While there were less than a half a dozen of them, they were so disruptive – heckling speakers, booing – it was often hard for the council hear the proceedings. Indeed, as Mayor Jim Clarke exclaimed repeatedly, “I cannot hear what the clerk is saying, and we need you to be respectful so we can run this meeting.”
None of them identified themselves as Culver City residents.
More than 60 local voters asking the council to declare sanctuary spoke at the podium, some sharing stories of working in refugee camps, of family members lost to the fascists in Poland, of marching against the Vietnam war, of deportations that separated parents and children. All of them offered their years in residence in Culver City, children in the schools, local business or volunteer leadership.
Joy Kecken asked the council to support the motion, requesting that the city “make explicit common cause” with other cities such as Boston, San Francisco and Santa Ana. Kecken was one of many standing with the Culver City Action Network, a neighborhood organization that was instrumental in getting the motion agendized.
Noah Zatz, one of the Culver City residents who helped to write the motion, pointed out that ‘sanctuary’ was important to formalize the commitment that the police had already made to the citizens.
Rob Cox offered that “Sanctuary cities are statistically proven to be economically and socially healthy areas,” and recalled a conversation with Mayor Clarke about kindness. “This is our chance to be conspicuously kind.”
The anti-sanctuary speakers started off loud and raised the volume, frequently screaming at the council – and the crowd – “Are you STUPID? What’s WRONG with all of YOU?” It looked as if their behavior offended the council more than their message. Police intervened with the protestors at several points during the meeting, asking them not to interrupt, to please put down the signs so as not to block the cameras, and to allow other people to speak.
Only one speaker who identified as a Culver City resident spoke against the motion, and he was not wearing a red baseball cap or the same t-shirt as the disruptive protestors.
Rob Nelson, a Hollywood resident who said that he was attending as a film maker, told the council to be proud. “The level of civility here is just great, just amazing. The way that you handle this is really heartening. You all should be very proud of this meeting. This is democracy in action, and this is what we all need to be part of right now.”
With the public hearing over just after midnight, the council debated their own issues with the motion, and removed the request for $20,000 to be given as legal aid support. The council members voted to support the motion at 12:34 p.m., and passed the motion to adjourn at 12:40 a.m.
Complete text of the agenda item is available here – culver-city.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=5028333&GUID=1C962C25-DAFA-47A8-A315-8F5C8E462DB5