Freedom Rally Tests City’s New Security

On Oct. 31, the weekly pro-Trump “Freedom Rally” saw its largest turnout since it began in July, with the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) placing turnout at 4,000 people. The final rally before Election Day tested the new security measures put in place for Election Week, with BHPD receiving support from the Santa Paula Police Department (SPPD) and two private armed security firms. With only minor scuffles between counter protesters and rally-goers and no arrests, BHPD is calling the first day of Election Week a success.

“We have been absolutely satisfied, and there’s been no issues,”
BHPD Public Information Officer Lt. Max Subin told the Courier. “They are all welcome into our law enforcement family.”

Subin explained that the department, in consultation with the City Council, had spent over two months planning for the additional security.

“The hiring of Santa Paula PD, the hiring of the security guards, wasn’t on a whim,” he said. “It was months of planning.”

On Oct. 13, the City authorized $4.8 million dollars to fund the measures, which went toward overtime for BHPD officers and staff, a 12 unit SWAT team from SPPD, and 80 private armed security personnel from two companies.

The reinforcements were on clear display on Halloween. Numerous white SUVs with Covered Six, one of the security contractors, patrolled the Business Triangle and assisted with traffic control. For part of the afternoon, Santa Paula’s hulking SWAT armed vehicle parked itself near the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, attracting stares and picture-taking by the crowd.

The City says it went through an exacting vetting process in selecting the two private security companies, Nastec International, Inc. and Covered 6. “We didn’t want people that were fly by night folks,” said Subin. “We wanted top tier people for the security.”

The City first established a relationship with SPPD during the civil unrest in the spring. On June 1, SPPD officers were allocated to Beverly Hills through Los Angeles County Mutual Aid. As a part of its Election Week security, the City has contracted with SPPD for assistance from its SWAT team, which includes 10 officers and 2 sergeants.

All of this came in handy on Saturday, when the Freedom Rally nearly doubled from its previous record attendance of 2,500. The crowd made multiple circuits through the Business Triangle throughout the day, necessitating street closures and traffic monitoring. Where at previous rallies, BHPD handled this and other tasks, the Department could rely on the private security to perform traffic control duties. This freed up the Department to handle more pressing safety concerns.

Around 4 p.m., a group of counter protesters marched from Roxbury Park to Beverly Gardens Park. The group of 50 made it as far as the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Rodeo Drive before BHPD and SPPD officers formed a scrimmage line between them and the throngs of Trump supporters. Within 10 minutes, however, BHPD declared an unlawful assembly after scuffles broke out between protesters and Freedom Rally-goers.

“A commander declared an unlawful assembly based on the fighting,” Subin said. The declaration applied only to the intersection, according to Subin, and was not targeted at the counter protesters specifically.

Closer to the evening, the rally spilled into Santa Monica Boulevard. “It’s a resource issue,” Subin said, explaining why BHPD did not clear the street. Instead, the department closed down Santa Monica Boulevard from Crescent to Beverly.

No arrests were made, though BHPD is currently investigating at least one incident of violence from the encounter between the rally and counter protesters.

Days later, on Election Day, a smaller crowd gathered at Beverly Gardens Park as election results trickled in. There, both witnesses and BHPD say that a Biden supporter brandished a knife at a Trump supporter. “The Biden supporter pulled a knife, a police officer saw the brandishing and was able to stop any action of the Biden supporter,” Subin told the Courier. In a matter of moments, dozens of BHPD officers and the SPPD SWAT team filed into the park, arresting the alleged brandisher.

While the Freedom Rally seems to have concluded, its organizer has announced a “Patriotic Picnic Party” scheduled at the same time and place on Nov. 7.

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