Around 50 people gathered in the Plaza on Friday, June 26, waving American flags in support of local and national police.
The protest, which remained peaceful throughout its duration, was planned as a response to the way police officers have been treated "by some anti-police protesters" in recent weeks, an announcement for the event stated.
In an invitation for the event, co-organizer Al Delsid wrote to discourage people from bringing their political beliefs to the Plaza. Cloverdale resident Mike Toninato organized the event with Delsid.
“We will be flying U.S. flags only and signs in support of police. We do not want any political signs, flags or slogans that support any political party or group,” he wrote. “Our mission is to let the police officers know that we support them.”
For approximately an hour, people lined Cloverdale Boulevard near the Plaza, waving American flags and holding signs in support of Cloverdale Police.
Toninato echoed Delsid's sentiment.
"I was out there to show positivity — I wasn’t out there for any side. I really just didn’t want to have any political side," Toninato said. "It’s just a stand for trying to unite everyone."
“I think we’re all in agreeance that what happened with George Floyd, we’re all condemning it,” Delsid said in an interview during the event. “Because of what’s happening with the police nowadays, all of the police are getting accused basically, of doing what that one officer did to Mr. Floyd. When I saw that the rioting started and that police were getting attacked and ambushed and killed, my anger level just started going up. I realized that this is no longer about George Floyd — this is just pure anarchy.”
Cloverdale had its own protest on May 31, condemning the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police and calling for an end to police brutality. That protest also remained peaceful, with a similar amount of people lining the boulevard at the Plaza, holding signs calling for police reform and support for people of color. Locally, protests that have resulted in property damage or looting have largely been isolated to ones occurring in Santa Rosa.
While the bulk of those driving by the June 26 event honked their car horns in support of those waving flags, on multiple occasions, other passersby yelled out to the protesters, saying “F--- the police,” and calling them white supremacists.
Delsid said that while he supports Black Lives Matter, he takes issue with looting and attacking officers.
“I thought, I don’t like what’s happening to the police. A lot of them are part of our community. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. Every time we need help, they’re there for us, and that made me think that we need to do something and support them,” he said.
During the event, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Henry-1 flew over, dipping low and circling the area above the Plaza twice while laying on its siren. The act elicited cheers from those protesting.
The Cloverdale Police Department was absent from the rally, with the exception of Officer Carlos Nunez driving by during his patrol of the area. The department’s absence from the event contrasts its presence during the May 31 protest, where around seven officers were placed at various points around the Plaza and North Cloverdale Boulevard.
According to Cloverdale Police Chief Jason Ferguson, the difference in police presence was due to a difference in safety concern.
"We were receiving information that there was threats to the individuals trying to set that rally up and we had concerns based on that," he said about the May 31 protest.
"We had nothing similar to any kind of threat or any kind of opposition to this event," he said. "That’s 100% behind the reason."
Ferguson said that when it comes to protests or demonstrations, regardless of subject matter, the department works to gather information to ensure that everything stays safe and peaceful.
Delsid, an active member of Cloverdale’s American Legion Post 293, said that to him, it comes down to supporting what the American flag stands for.
“What is important to me is this flag,” he said. “It’s the flag of the United States, and right now our country is divided. It’s not the flag of the divided states, but of the United States. That’s just the way I like to look at it, and I was hoping that this would be an opportunity to unite people rather than to separate. We all live in this community, we want to support our neighbors and friends.”
As the protest wound down, three Cloverdale residents approached the Plaza with a poster that held the names and photos of 86 people of color who had been killed by the police. As they stood in the Plaza with the poster, the sign's creators were heckled by nearby kids about their support of Black Lives Matter.