Santa Maria replaces flagpole halyard damaged in civil unrest
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Santa Maria replaces flagpole halyard damaged in civil unrest

From the June 29 recap: Santa Maria news you may have missed today series
  • Updated

Santa Maria city crews have replaced the rope used to raise and lower the flag in front of City Hall that was damaged during last month's civil unrest

Santa Maria Fire Truck 1 assisted city staff last week in the installation of the new rope, also called a halyard, which was cut May 31 after a protest devolved into chaos near the intersection of Cook Street and South Broadway.

During the unrest the American flag was also removed by an angry crowd before it was reclaimed by an active duty member of the U.S. Air Force several hours later. 

The flag was not damaged but has since been retired due to wear and tear over time, according to city spokesman Mark van de Kamp, who could not provide a cost estimate for the flagpole damage. 

"[The American flag] was installed long before the other flag was returned because we take pride in flying the American flag for our community and our veterans," van de Kamp said. 

The civil unrest followed a May 31 protest in Santa Maria against the death of George Floyd on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes while he was handcuffed. 

After hundreds of protesters dispersed from the intersection of South Broadway and Cook Street after 6 p.m., a rebellious crowd began lighting off fireworks and vandalizing the nearby Town Center Mall, according to Santa Maria Police. 

Gore was one of five people standing across the street who witnessed the group remove the American flag and tried to stop them.

Gore, along with Jonathan Carroll, Brandon Reis and Michael and Adrina Chavez, all from Santa Maria, approached the small crowd and tried to diffuse the situation but, instead, were physically attacked with kicks and punches. 

The five defended themselves, receiving minor injuries in the process, according to Carroll, who broke his finger during the skirmish. 

"The moment we stepped across the street, we knew we were all getting into something but weren't going to let them destroy the flag," Gore said. 

Santa Maria resident Larry Hislop watched the situation live on Facebook and alerted 19-year-old Malcolm Astudillo, an Air Force airman stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, who rushed from Arroyo Grande and reclaimed the flag without further incident. 

Jaime Flores, a local insurance agency owner, also watched a live video of the fight and called Steve Baird from the Band of Brothers/Echo Group.

Using a ladder, Baird climbed to the roof of City Hall and raised the flag in the bell tower. Once the situation was brought under control shortly after midnight, Baird got permission to raise the flag up the pole. 

The flag-raising mission had nothing to do with the protests, Baird said, but was intended to restore the flag to its rightful place. 

"It's not to agree or disagree," Baird said. "That's what we set out to do and we did." 


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