Our View: Doing things right
Most everyone can agree that plenty went wrong on Aug. 9 in Nevada City.
It’s just now we have a report stating that.
The after-action report, months in the making, is clear. No police officer broke a rule or law during a rally that became violent. However, the police “were insufficiently trained and equipped to handle the protest.” Additionally, it appears Nevada City hasn’t been consistent in requiring permits — which are required — for rallies like this.
You can watch the videos from that day, which appeared online shortly after the Black Lives Matter rally. Even the highly edited video the report refers to is pretty clear in many aspects.
BLM supporters marched down the street and were met by another group, the Nevada County Patriots. Some members of the patriot group violently accosted the BLM marchers. The violence continued, and it’s evident that law enforcement couldn’t handle it.
The report reinforces those statements.
The police were overwhelmed, there weren’t enough of them, and they had no advance warning this situation would flare up. Officers said later they didn’t take action necessary to stop the violent clashes because they knew they didn’t have enough of a presence. They said they couldn’t make any arrests or citations, because that would have removed an officer from the mix while dealing with the immediate situation.
At best, this shows a poorly understaffed police force trying to control a situation for which they had no advance warning. At worst, it shows police who not only didn’t have the training or equipment, they didn’t know what to do at the most crucial of moments.
We are thankful that no deadly force was used at the rally. Local authorities have been criticized, and rightfully so, in the fatal shootings of Gabriel Strickland and Sage Crawford. This situation could have easily been much worse.
This silver lining, however, doesn’t negate the work Nevada City police need to do.
The first task the city should address, along with all local governments, is to require permits for any rally, protest or gathering over a certain number of people. This number depends on each town, city or county, but a specific number must be set.
As the report states, this requirement must be applied consistently. This isn’t an infringement on free speech. In fact, it’s a step to protect it. We want people to have the freedom to gather publicly in support or opposition to any issue, but our law enforcement agencies must have advance notice in order to keep everyone safe.
We’ve seen what happens when that advance notice is lacking.
Having the appropriate level of staffing is crucial, as is the training. Could police have removed a few instigators and negated the violence of that day? Could they have identified those people in time and taken the proper action?
No one can know for sure. What we can do, though, is ensure that the necessary training is in place to stop a day like Aug. 9 from happening again.
Nevada City Councilman Gary Petersen said public safety comprises half of the city’s budget. Training must become a priority, as should the city’s permitting process for public gatherings. If the money’s not already there, existing priorities must shift.
Grass Valley and Nevada City are the jewels of western Nevada County. We choose to live here because of the climate and the culture, and people visit from across the state and country because of what we have to offer.
One of those amenities is a community composed of many different political beliefs, and people who regularly act on those values. We must hold ourselves to a high standard, and keep public gatherings peaceful. Nevada City and all local law enforcement agencies should take the after-action report at face value, and immediately implement its recommendations.
That way, we’ll look back at the next rally and say that plenty went right.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com
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