When he began his first term as Mayor two months ago, Lester Friedman knew he was taking over at a singular time in the City’s history. This week, the idea of having a mere pandemic to deal with seems fairly desirable.
Beverly Hills has gone through one of the most tension-filled weeks in its history. Since May 30, protests both peaceful and violent and six (at press time) consecutive nights of curfews have shaken residents and business owners alike.
Mayor Friedman spoke with the Courier about these unprecedented times.
“The right of people to peacefully protest has to be constitutionally protected and we are very cognizant of that,” Friedman told the Courier. “What happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd is horrific. There is no one who would say that what occurred there was appropriate police work. We as a City believe it is unthinkable.”
He noted, “What happened over the weekend was a bunch of people who felt they would take advantage of the situation. It was a criminal element that wanted to destroy. We got them out as quickly as we could.”
The Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) made dozens of arrests on May 30, primarily for vandalism and burglary. Friedman believes the department did the best job possible under circumstances that were changing quickly.
Still, residents were rattled by scenes of protestors seemingly occupying the Civic Center, and chanting while the police department, library and City hall were defaced. Looting spilled into Rodeo Drive and the business district.
“Peaceful protestors came into the City and we even had resources embedded in those protestors. For the most part, the first group was exercising their constitutional rights and were peaceful other than a few
broken windows. When they left, another group came in with the sole intent of criminal activity,” said Friedman.
He added, “We had full staffing available. And, no matter how many police you had at that point, you have to pick which crimes you’re going to police. You have to consider the amount of resources that were available to police when you have 2,000 people,” said Friedman.
Peaceful protests continued in the City on and off for a few days. The California National Guard arrived in Beverly Hills on June 1. Friedman hopes the approximately 100 members of the Guard will stay here as long as needed.
“We placed the Guard in stationary spots in secured areas, such as the Business Triangle. That freed up the BHPD to go into neighborhoods.” said Friedman.
He noted that the City has never experienced anything like this past week.
“It is not like 1992, during the Rodney King riots,” said Friedman. “We are going to get through this bump in the road. There is a bigger problem in our whole nation that we need to deal with. I think we need to deal with it as a community and as a society. But, the way to gain respect is not by violating everybody else’s rights and their livelihood. People are hurting now. They were going to go back to work and now they can’t go back. This was a really inopportune time.”
He added, “We are going to get back on track with this COVID-19 issue and with this crisis we are dealing with right now. I haven’t kissed a baby, shaken a hand or cut a ribbon thus far. But, it’s ok. This is where I was placed at this point in time. I am so proud of living in this community and what it does to get together and to get over these events.”