Saturday, January 23, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 47
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 13th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 46 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 46

District attorney won't file charges related to December gathering in Solvang

By Karen Garcia

During the Jan. 11 Solvang City Council meeting, a resident called on the city to condemn one of two large gatherings that took place over the Dec. 19 weekend at Solvang Park.


PROTECTED SPEECH
A political group’s event called for attendees to visit Solvang for a peaceful protest but the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office says there isn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges.
IMAGE COURTESY OF AFTPAC.COM

The city said the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office was made aware of the event via a report by the Santa Barabara County Sheriff’s Office, however the District Attorney’s Office said there isn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges against anyone for not abiding by state and county guidelines governing large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During public comment at the Jan. 11 meeting, an older male resident who did not provide his name said Solvang was “invaded by a rowdy group motivated by a certain political passion” on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

Hosted by a group called Alliance for Truth, the nonpermitted event was called Solvang MAGA Christmas. The group’s website asked “fellow patriots” to join in on a fun family day of peaceful protesting and a Christmas light caravan “in Solvang the charming little Danish town that has the courage to remain open during the lockdown.” 

The day’s events included live music performances, shopping in the downtown area, and a coordinated “patriot” dinner meet-and-greet planned at the Chumash Resort and Casino. The public commenter said the gathering was sparsely attended but many vehicles flew the American flag “defaced by slogans for the Second Amendment and other assumed rights.” 

His main concern with the event was one sign that read, “Fuck Biden and fuck you too if you voted for him.” The commenter said he approached the young man holding the sign and criticized him for the profanity. 

“His response was, ‘Fuck you if you don’t like it.’ Given his knotted fists and his movement toward me, I thought better of what would have probably been a physical altercation, which I might have lost,” he said. 

The resident said he was disappointed to learn the city had released a statement following the events saying it could not control an individual’s right to freedom of speech. 

“Profanity like [what was written on the sign] is speech labeled obscene that’s actually been excluded from the First Amendment. Further, if that speech provokes actions that incite violence it’s also excluded. Thus, these profane words almost provoked a confrontation,” he said. 

He asked the council to aggressively condemn the protest. 

Mayor Charlie Uhrig said he, a Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office lieutenant, and the city manager were in contact during that Sunday’s events to best mitigate the arrival of the event’s attendees.

In order to avoid a confrontation between law enforcement and attendees Uhrig said, they felt that it was in the best interest of the community’s public safety to let the peaceful event happen. 

The Sheriff’s Office submitted a report to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, he said, for review of possible criminal charges in relation to an unlawful gathering. 

Chief Deputy District Attorney John Savrnoch told the Sun that no charges will be filed at this time. Savrnoch said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to discern whether the large number of people present over the Dec. 19 weekend was due to the organized event. 

The District Attorney’s Office will continue reviewing these reports, he said, and keep in regular contact with law enforcement officials in regard to these cases. 










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