Protests continue as hundreds peacefully march on the Riverside County Courthouse

Riverside City College student Cameron Allen, front, kneels at the Black Lives Matter protest in Riverside on June 7. He stared down a deputy that protesters noticed was smirking as police dressed in riot gear surrounded the Riverside County Courthouse. Allen said he intended to show police he does not fear them. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)

By Erik Galicia

Nearly two weeks of national protests against racial violence continued June 7 in Riverside with another large demonstration that peacefully marched downtown to demand justice for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.

Hundreds met at Fairmount Park in Riverside at noon and kicked off the demonstration with performances by local Black spoken word poets, singers and rappers. Speakers shared their thoughts on reforms and called for the inclusion of all Black lives in the movement, which they said forgets some people in its push for justice.

“Breonna Taylor,” said a protester who wished to be identified only as Chinazam. “Black women are being left out. Say her name too.”

Chinazam also called for the remembrance of Tony McDade, a Black transgender man, who was shot and killed by police in Tallahasee, Florida on May 27. As seen in other local protests, Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed by police at a Riverside gas station in 1998, was honored during the speeches at Fairmount Park.

“All Black lives matter,” Chinazam said.

Although the demonstration was organized by local activists not directly affiliated with Black Lives Matter, the movement’s Inland Empire chapter attended in support. They presented a list of demands including the immediate release of Lawrence Bender, a Black man who survived a shooting by Rialto police during an altercation in June 2019 and remains in custody. 

Adolfo Aguila, a representative from Black Lives Matter I.E., also demanded the demilitarization of police, an end to the prison industrial complex and the reallocation of police funds to education and programs for underserved communities.

A protester raises a sign that reads “#VOTE” in front of the Riverside County Courthouse as demonstrators discuss the importance of political participation. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)

“There are tons of core issues here like police brutality,” said protester Garret Whidman, a former Riverside City College student. “If we can address that and send funding into communities, it would address the root causes of many other problems.”

Whidman also disputed the argument that such demands would lead to lawlessness and the oppression of White people.

“That’s far from the truth,” Whidman said. “It doesn’t mean there will be no police. That’s a long term goal. Everyone just wants to go home in peace. But we cannot have this false form of peace.”

Protester Jalen Carpenter discussed the mindset of Black people and Black on Black crime, admitting that he has drawn criticism for bringing up the issue in the past.

“It is bad but we can fix it,” Carpenter said. “Through us fixing it, we will find the solution we need. We can’t leave it up to the people who enslaved us to free us.”

The large crowd marched peacefully from Fairmount Park to the Riverside County Courthouse downtown, where they encountered a heavy police presence dressed in riot gear. Here, Chinazam discussed the importance of voting and continued the call for the reallocation of police funds.

“They’re using our taxpayer money to kill us,” Chinazam said. “Who are they serving? As soon as black people started protesting, batons and rubber bullets came with a quickness.”

Mirroring protests across the country, demonstrators observed a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd, who was asphyxiated by a White Minneapolis police officer over a period of the same duration on Memorial Day.

The demonstration made its way back to Fairmount Park with no arrests or incidents of violence, according to The Press-Enterprise. 

Protesters called for continued advocacy.

“We’re tired of having to come out here every single time a Black man, a Black woman, a trans Black person, a queer Black person is killed unjustly by the police and nothing happens,” Aguila said. “We need you all to continue to come out here.”

Hundreds gather at the Fairmount Park Amphitheater in Riverside to watch performers and listen to speakers before marching on the Riverside County Courthouse downtown. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)