With the nation’s focus once again on Ferguson, Missouri and whether or not the officer who shot and killed a black teenager in August is indicted, the question for many cities across the country is how to deal with possible unrest that may come out of a grand jury’s announcement expected to be revealed any day.
On August 9, Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking weeks of standoffs between protestors, local law enforcement and eventually the National Guard. On Monday, officials declared a state of emergency with the Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, activating the National Guard once again as a pre-emptive measure to any kind of demonstration. City leaders nationwide have expressed that they're taking precautions to protect its citizens and their businesses in advance of the decision coming out of Ferguson.
So, what are Long Beach authorities doing in the event that protests, if they take place or turn ugly?
While the department declined to discuss specific measures being taken in advance of the grand jury’s decision in Missouri. Cynthia Arrona of the LBPD said that the department was closely monitoring developments and keeping tabs on social media—much like last year when the LBPD used social media to prepare for a so-called “bash mob” that organized plans online to hit Long Beach—for any tips that an issue could arise in the city.
The department didn't disclose whether they planned to deploy as much man power as they did in advance of the "bash mob" and, should protests arise, but Arrona did mention that any response to unruly behavior that may materialize, and the steps being taken to prevent it, wouldn’t be solely the onus of the LBPD.
“Police, Fire, and Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Communications personnel are working in collaboration with regional agencies and law enforcement partners, as well as community, business and clergy members, to share information and planning efforts,” Arrona said in an email.
While there have been peaceful rallies in response to national stories in the city, Long Beach is just over two decades removed from the fallout of the 1992 riots that followed the acquittal of LAPD officers who were video taped beating Rodney King. While the department declined to comment on how the six days of violence and crime stemming from that high profile court decision has affected their strategy for potentially dealing with a future riot situation, Arrona said the department will allow for peaceful assemblies but the safety of Long Beach’s diverse communities and its citizens is always the top priority.
“The City fully recognizes and continually seeks to fulfill its fundamental role to protect the rights of all persons who choose to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, protest, or rally,” Arrona said. “LBPD has the responsibility to ensure overall public safety and to protect the lives and property of all persons. Officers are well trained and use time, patience, and communication to facilitate lawful protest activities that occasionally occur in our city.”