A group calling itself the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment staged a third protest last Saturday morning in front of the San Marino home of a Wells Fargo Bank executive to state their objection to what they perceive as predatory home mortgage lending.
At 12:21 p.m., the San Marino Police Dept. received a call declaring that approximately twenty protesters had assembled at the residence, which is located above Lacy Park. One family member was home at the time of the demonstration.
By the time police arrived, the number had swelled to seventy-five. Protesters had constructed a barricade in the street using yellow caution tape in order to enclose themselves in front of the property.
Citing two ordinances recently adopted by the San Marino City Council to control similar disturbances, Police Sgt. Timothy Tebbetts issued several verbal warnings in order to relocate the group to a legal distance from the property. When the mob refused and it was determined the protesters were blocking street access, the assembly was declared unlawful. At approximately 12:58 p.m. a dispersal order was given and the protesters broke down their effort and left the area peacefully, according to Sgt. Tebbetts, who served as the officer in charge at the scene.
The SMPD received assistance from the San Gabriel and South Pasadena Police Departments, according to Tebbetts, who indicated that a total of ten officers were on site. No arrests or citations were issued.
San Marino Police Chief Tim Harrigan cited two new ordinances that were passed by the city council last year as important factors in keeping the protest at bay.
“The new ordinances really worked well,” said Harrigan, who left his home in LaVerne and made a beeline for the residence of Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan when he heard of the protest.
The picketing ordinance extends the boundary which protesters cannot breach to either 150’ from the front door of the home or 75’ from property line – whichever is greater.
The new assembly ordinance allows the City of San Marino to restrict public gatherings.
“Basically, it allows the city to identify where public assembly can take place,” said Harrigan. “We have identified the center median of Huntington Drive as well as public sidewalks as two areas where people may assemble as long as the assembly does not impede traffic.
The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment brought an attorney to the demonstration who reportedly told police that the group just wanted to finish their media opportunity and they would leave peacefully.
“Give us a dispersal order and we’ll leave,” the attorney said to San Marino Police officers.
Tebbetts gave them five minutes to vacate the area. The group was gone in three, save some stragglers who were waiting for a ride.
Organizers had apparently contacted select media they felt would further their cause as a local newspaper and unmarked news van catered to the protest.
“This was clearly an organized event,” said Harrigan.
After de-briefing, Harrigan told The Tribune that Tebbetts did “an extremely good, an outstanding job” of handling the situation.
“With little advance notice, our officers responded quickly and professionally,” Harrigan said. “They used the tools we have – the ordinances – and that worked well. We announced that it was an unlawful assembly and gained compliance from the protesters. The officers on-site handled it well and made good decisions.”
Harrigan also said that all of San Marino’s police vehicles have copies of the new ordinances on-board. Tebbetts said that he showed the ordinance to the group’s attorney who agreed that the new laws had been upheld by courts of law.
“The number one goal is to safeguard the family and the surrounding residents,” Harrigan said, indicating that police officers and other city personnel stayed in touch with members of the Sloan Family.
Harrigan also said that at one point of the event, the attorney told SMPD officers they “only wanted a few minutes to get their photo op” before they moved on.
Harrigan also wants residents to be aware that the SMPD will be cracking down on dangerous driver behavior in the upcoming weeks as local students return to the classrooms.
“School is starting soon and we are going to be focusing on pedestrian safety,” said the Chief. “We have a new motor officer and we will be targeting behavior that puts our citizens at risk – crosswalk violations, speeding, illegal lane changes – things like that. Traffic accidents are up and it is due to driver behavior. We are going to address this for the safety of our people.”
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