Large crowd in Solvang rallies, then marches while calling for racial justice
SOLVANG, Calif. - About two hundred people gathered at Solvang Park in the downtown area of the city Friday evening as part of a rally to promote racial justice and peace.
“I made it a point that I would come out, and I’m very surprised,” Santa Ynez Valley resident Denise Elamin said of the large turnout. “I’m proud of my community. I’m glad I picked this community, and I’m very proud of it.”
Former Los Olivos pastor Chuck Stacy called the rally "a wonderful expression."
Most people wore masks and brought signs, many of them denouncing racism and police brutality. Others recognized George Floyd and other black lives that were cut short. Some brought signs saying 'Defund Police.'
"I live next door and across the street to police officers, and they are extremely nice to me," said Elamin, who is black. "They have great families. So I see the good part of police, and I see on TV the bad ones. I don't think that all police officers are bad, but I do believe that they know the bad people in their departments. They know 'em. And I think that they have a responsibility to get those out."
The crowd kneeled silently for eight minutes and 46 seconds to honor Floyd. Afterward, a local pastor led a non-denominational prayer and the crowd listened to music.
After the rally in the park, a large section of the crowd began marching up and down Mission Drive, chanting "No Justice, No Peace," "I Can't Breathe" and "Black Lives Matter."
The demonstrations were peaceful, with no damage or violence reported.
Some businesses near the park had boarded up their windows before the event. City attorney Chip Wullbrandt said that rumors were circulating online that outside agitators would be joining Friday's crowd, looking to cause damage.
“There’s just been a lot of fear-mongering occurring,” he said. “And it’s a real shame because, you know in general, Solvang is a happy, friendly, welcoming place. We’re all about hospitality.
"They were all very calm," Wullbrandt said of the protestors. "They all were very, obviously, passionate. And I think they had that opportunity to express their passion, but in a very peaceful and appropriate fashion.”
Roberto Jenovese, who organized a similar rally in Buellton Thursday, said he has been receiving threats because of his role in the movement. He said his car was keyed in the Solvang area just before the rally.
He said that such responses are "not okay," but that they only encouraged him to continue speaking out.
Jenovese says another peaceful protest is planned at Solvang Park at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re gonna be giving off preaches,” he said. “We’re gonna be sharing stories. We’re gonna be supporting each other.”