By Dan Jamieson
HBPD police chief Robert Handy gave a mea culpa of sorts at the June 15, 2020 city council meeting in describing how the police handled the May 31 Black-Lives-Matter protest in the downtown.
Handy said the department’s plan to police the event didn’t anticipate that BLM “counter-protesters” might attack some of the BLM attendees.
Prior to the May 31 protest at the pier and Main Street, Handy said he and his staff were concerned that the violence and rioting seen at other BLM protests, such as in Long Beach, might spread to HB. But Handy said he wanted officers to stay removed from protesters and avoid sparking reaction.
HBPD “hadn’t seen any other place that experienced counter-protester violence against protesters,” Handy said. “We didn’t factor that into our plan.”
As a result, assaults at the May 31 protest got out of hand, causing HBPD to shut it down and order protesters to disperse.
“The inability to stop some of the things that occurred are squarely on my shoulders,” Handy said. “We didn’t have people in position enough to separate the crowd early enough,” he said. “Some were there to agitate, which we’ve since learned.”
For the next big downtown protest on June 6, “we had an element in there to deal with counter-protesters” and more resources to deal with conflicts, Handy said. “We did have some violence that occurred at that protest as well, and we were able to surgically remove some of those people.”
The police chief added that he was frustrated hearing that people don’t feel safe in Huntington Beach. “That’s my responsibility. … “We have some work to do.”
Many of the public speakers at the city council meeting criticized HB leaders for not explicitly supporting the BLM movement, and ignoring the threat from extreme right-wing agitators. Several recalled personal experiences of racism, and noted HB’s history of being a hot bed or racist extremist groups.