Increased City Hall Area Security/Lighting Needed Say Los Cerritos Oil/Wetlands Project Consultants After Team Member Allegedly Physically Attacked, Others Verbally Lambasted After Planning Comm'n Hearing
|(Dec. 6, 2017, 9:25 a.m.) -- Mike Murchison (a professional advocate/lobbyist for various Long Beach clients including Beach Oil Minerals Partners [BOMP] seeking approval to slant drill 100+ wells near the Los Cerritos wetlands, remove current surface wells and over restore the wetlands) and Heather Altman (an environmental specialist serving as a BOMP project consultant) told the City Council on Dec. 5 that the City Hall area needs additional security and better lighting, and the public deserves protection to feel safe and encourage participation in public proceedings, after a BOMP consultant (a man) was allegedly physically attacked by an individual, and other project supporters were allegedly followed out of City Hall and verbally lambasted by another individual (Mr. Murchison said is a member of a City Commission) following a lengthy and sometimes raucous Nov. 30 Planning Commission meeting.
Mayor Garcia [who receives a list of public speakers enabling him to anticipate what may be said] exited the Council Chamber before public comment, leaving Vice Mayor Rex Richardson to chair the Public Comment portion of the meeting.
LBREPORT.com provides extended on-demand PODCAST audio below of what Mr. Murchison and Ms. Altman said, followed by the responses of two Councilmembers (Richardson and Pearce), a remark by Councilman Supernaw who said his silence shouldn't be confused with any type of suggestion that we're not very, very concerned about the issue and asked the City Attorney if Councilmembers could legally comment under the Brown Act; the City Attorney replied that within limits they can, after which Supernaw didn't comment further. Nor did any other Councilmembers, and Mayor Garcia said nothing on the matter after he returned. LBREPORT.com invites our readers' audio comments on the issue for publication in a subsequent PODCAST at (562) 429-TALK (429-8255).
[Scroll down for further.]
Mr. Murchison began by saying some project opponents were "verbally abusive" to Commissioners through the evening (and specifically after a
Mr. Murchison continued:
"Myself and several others were going the other way toward the parking structure, and we were verbally assaulted, called murders, told us that hopefully that we'd die of cancer, that we'd go to hell. I'm used to in my profession being yelled at, being booed or whatever; it comes with the territory of what I do. What doesn't come with the territory of what I do is to go outside, walk towards my car quietly, and be verbally assaulted and followed out towards the parking structure. That doesn't come with the territory. That kind of thing needs to stop and was one of your City Commissioners. Now I'll talk offline by the Mayor and have that conversation specifically, but I think you all need to take a look at in the future what we are doing to protect people that are coming to speak, whether it's opponents, whether it's applicants, whether it's third parties, it really doesn't make a difference. What we all need to be assured of is that there's proper security for us, that we feel safe, because we're coming down here to do a job, we're doing on behalf of residents, on behalf of clients, whatever it is, I just ask you folks to take a look at it."
Vice Mayor Richardson commented: "The tone has become in the public discourse just more and more negative and we having those conversations behind the dais about where, legally, where is that line. We've had Councilmembers threatened, we've had public violence right here in the Chambers, and honestly we do need to have that conversation...Thank you for coming down, and we'll be taking a look at that."
BOMP consultant Heather Altman then spoke. Ms. Altman said a man she didn't identify "started following quite close to me screaming truly vile things, wishing me breast cancer, wishing me death" and she and another woman (the latter attending her first Council meeting) ultimately made it to their cars without further incident. She stated: "Walking from this building to the parking lot is creepy. It's dark. There are blind corners. There's long hallways and virtually no security presence. I respectfully ask for that to change. Please add some lighting. Please also consider establishing an escort area in the building so that women who are alone, or anyone that's fearful of walking to their car, can be accompanied from this building to the parking lot. And of course, please provide appropriate security details for all meetings. These precautions if implemented will help to prevent another attack and help people feel safe here. I realize however these measures will not curb the angry rhetoric. We live in increasingly polarized times. Gone is civility and in its place is the hurling of invectives with the intention to intimidate. It is equally scary and sad. I hope that moving forward we will engage each other respectfully and with civility."
Councilwoman Pearce remarked that she was sorry at what took place. "I know that these issues are very passionate for folks and it's not OK that you live in any type of fear walking to your cars. So not only will we make sure that we have our PD and our security here, but we'll also work with the DLBA [Downtown LB Alliance] who have the red shirts that actually help escort people, so we'll make sure that we coordinate with them on Tuesdays..."
To hear what took place, click PODCAST audio below. To provide your own audio comments for possible PODCAST publication by LBREPORT.com, phone us and provide your comments at (562) 429-TALK (429-8255.)
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, LBPD Public Information Officer Arantxa Chavarria said that at roughly 9:00 p.m., officers were dispatched to the 300 W. block of Ocean Blvd. for a possible battery call.. where they learned that a male suspect had allegedly assaulted a male victim outside the building [City Hall.] A suspect description was transmitted via LBPD radio; a suspect, identified by LBPD as Travis Swans, 22, of Long Beach, was detained and taken into custody in the area of Pine Ave./Broadway.
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