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"Unprecedented" nightly curfew now in effect in Santa Maria until June 8th

Posted at 11:28 PM, Jun 01, 2020

A nightly curfew went into effect on Monday night in Santa Maria from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The curfew is in place through June 8, and leaders say the order is "unprecedented."

The sweeping move follows the looting and vandalism that took over parts of South Broadway Sunday night. There are exemptions to the curfew, however.

Those exemptions include: people who are traveling to and from their place of employment, those who are seeking emergency medical care and first responders.

Stores like Albertsons closed early Monday, following the new curfew.

It's unclear at this time if people who are found breaking the curfew will be cited or fined.

"I'm all for it if it's for protecting people," said Santa Maria resident, Amy Argentieri. "I'm very concerned though about this level stress on top of what everyone's been facing with the coronavirus. I mean, people have lost their jobs and this is something that could be prevented."

The Santa Maria Police Chief estimates at least 300 people were downtown Sunday night, as spectators watched cars doing donuts around a fire burning outside of City Hall. And looters took to the Santa Maria Town Center Mall.

"We wanted to tolerate people's rights and empower them, but tolerance stops when destruction starts and tolerance has its limits," said Santa Maria Police Department Chief of Police, Phil Hansen.

City leaders and local advocates say it's disheartening that the message of the original protest was lost, but many believe these antics were done by people from outside the city.

Chief Hansen says there was a fine line between enforcement and protecting officers as crowds continued to grow.

"You can’t just wade into the middle of that with a small number of officers; you're almost begging for a bad confrontation and a lot of violence," Hansen said. "So what we did was we built our numbers up, called people in and when we had a sufficient number of people to do it safely, we came in, swept them out. So moving forward, this is something new for the city of Santa Maria and we will plan differently and be better prepared."

For local NAACP Chapter President Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt, she says she's seen a recent change in policing from the Santa Maria Police Department and feels more supported by officers than ever before.

"I think when you compare our chief now -- even Chief Martin who came in to clean up Santa Maria -- compared to the chief two terms previously, you can see a real big difference. There were issues within the community and within their own police department," Lyons-Pruitt said.

The NAACP and several other community partners have organized another protest in Santa Maria that is scheduled for this Thursday at 5 p.m., starting outside of City Hall before people begin marching down towards Main Street.

Lyons-Pruitt says she was considering canceling the event after what happened last night but feels uplifted by the community support she received Monday.

City leaders and advocacy groups say they hope to keep the dialogue going on this issue.