Simi Valley church billed $40,000 for protest

first_imgBut the city was unhappy with footing the bill for the overtime and associated costs and decided someone had to pay. The church got left holding the check. “They were responsible for provoking the protest,” Mayor Paul Miller, the city’s former police chief, said during a City Hall press conference Wednesday. “They are responsible for bearing the cost. This is $40,000 that we could have spent somewhere else. We counseled the church not to do this. … They went ahead anyway.” But the church didn’t call the cops, said Hilda Delgado, a spokeswoman for the New Sanctuary Movement, the organization that helped Liliana hole up in the church. Nor did its members cause any more of a scene than the 100 people marching around outside the church’s grounds. She dismissed the bill as a political scare tactic and said it wouldn’t shake the church’s resolve. SIMI VALLEY – In an unusual twist on the national immigration debate, the city of Simi Valley sent a $40,000 bill Wednesday to a church harboring an undocumented immigrant after a protest there over the weekend prompted a police presence. The United Church of Christ has played host for several months to a Ventura woman named Liliana, a Mexican citizen seeking sanctuary from immigration laws. On Sunday, the anti-illegal immigration group Save Our State sent a contingent of 100 protesters to Royal Avenue outside UCC, hollering slogans into bullhorns, toting signs and waving American flags. The church’s advocates dispatched more than two dozen counter-protestors who chanted in opposition. Four Simi Valley Police Department officers arrived to keep an eye on things, swelling to 15 cops as the crowd grew. Aside from a minor scuffle between two protestors, all sides agreed the standoff was peaceful and orderly. Police arrested no one. “We did not organize this protest,” she said. “We did not call the police. We did not ask them to send their officers. This is ridiculous.” Simi Valley Police Chief Mike Lewis said it was rare for his agency to charge for showing up at an event, but that it might ask organizers of parades and rallies to pick up the overtime costs associated with a police presence. He noted that both sides were within their rights to be there but that since they’d clashed in the past, he’d assigned officers to ensure nothing got out of hand. The Rev. June Goudey of UCC said she had not received the bill but was talking to her lawyers. She characterized the church’s relationship with the city as cordial and cooperative. Miller and Councilman Glen Becerra weren’t so enthusiastic. Becerra said the church was free to exercise its First Amendment rights but that it had brought unwanted, unacceptable publicity into the city. “We don’t want to become a sanctuary city,” he said. “That’s not acceptable in this community. We went down there and told them that. And if you’re going to do that, you have to be responsible for your actions.” Save Our State heartily agreed, praising Miller for taking a stand in the hotly charged immigration debate. Its media and events director, Chelene Nightingale, was less enthusiastic, however, about a reverse scenario. If pro-immigrant rights groups protest her group, she doesn’t think Save Our State should pay the cost. “Well, no, absolutely not,” she said. “But I understand the statement the mayor’s trying to make: `I’m not going to pay for your criminal actions. Let someone else foot the bill.”‘ But that someone shouldn’t be the church, said Professor Jonathan Varat of the UCLA School of Law. While the city has been clear that it’s not attempting to limit the church’s right to free speech, charging for unrequested police services has the same effect. “This just seems like a backhanded way to pressure the church. The protesters decided to do this on their own,” he said. “If I were the church, I’d say, `I’m not going to pay this.”‘ [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img