By Erik Galicia
Calls for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the end to the detention of migrant children filled the streets of downtown Riverside on June 26.
“Black and Brown unity,” marchers chanted, many of them Black Lives Matter supporters. “The people united will never be divided.”
Protesters first gathered at Fairmount Park, which has been the starting point of several protests in recent weeks.
“Why are we here,” Heron Carrillo, former organizer for Compton for Bernie (Sanders), asked the crowd at the Fairmount Park Amphitheater. “Reason number one: To free our kids.”
Edin Enamorado, former regional field director for the Sanders presidential campaign, stressed the importance of political participation.
“It’s about voting, applying pressure,” Enamorado said. “Hold your elected officials accountable. Because even after you vote, they might switch up.”
Enamorado urged the crowd to research candidates in local politics and find out who runs their campaigns.
Alejandro Garcia, a Cal State San Bernardino graduate, delivered a different message to the youthful crowd.
“These guys right here might tell you to go out and vote,” Garcia said about the speakers that preceded him. “I’m gonna tell you you should go out and get elected. I want you to go out there and change the system.”
Several protesters called for the remembrance of Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old security guard who was killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in Gardena on June 18. Police claim to have recovered a handgun on Guardado’s person at the scene, but have yet to release footage of the incident.
Garcia also brought attention to Sean Monterrosa, a 22-year-old who was killed by Vallejo, California police during incidents of looting June 2. Police said Monterrosa was on his knees outside a Walgreens in Vallejo when police shot him after mistaking a hammer protruding from his sweatshirt for a firearm.
“Sean was murdered,” Garcia said. “We’re going to acknowledge Sean tonight. We’re going to acknowledge Breonna (Taylor) tonight. We’re going to acknowledge all the other individuals that have been murdered by a racist system that has been created to keep us down, to kill us off, and to keep us from gaining power.”
Dancers performed a traditional Aztec dance before leading the march south on Market Street, while police trailed closely behind, toward the Riverside County Administration Building downtown.
Police officers and sheriff’s deputies dressed in riot gear were first spotted at the intersection of Market and 9th Streets, blocking the path to the administration building. The march turned east on University Avenue and south on the Main Street walkway.
Tensions spiked as the marchers quickened their pace toward police and eventually confronted dozens of officers outside the administration building.
A 25-year-old community organizer who goes by Jo-Jo recounted being held in an immigration detention center at 4 years old. Jo-Jo was also present at the Long Beach immigration protest June 20.
“It was the worst thing that I’ve ever gone through in my entire life,” Jo-Jo said. “The same way you see these commercials about these dogs in shelters. That’s how they treated us.”
Jo-Jo claimed he would not be fed for days at a time and said she was once not given any water for two days.
“I had no counsel,” Jo-Jo said. “I had no blanket. I had no toilet paper. Fifteen people to one cage. One bathroom for 15 people, including children. I had to go on myself. That’s the truest thing that I could tell you.”
One of the organizers of the demonstration, Junior Vilchiz of Riverside, urged for continued organization.
“Our migrant children need us now more than ever,” Vilchiz said. “They are being sexually abused and some of them are f—— missing. These I.C.E. detention centers need to be abolished as soon as possible.”
The march was the latest in a string of protests against I.C.E., following the Los Angeles and Long Beach marches of the past two weeks.
The demonstration remained peaceful and eventually marched back to Fairmount Park. More protests are planned for June 27 in Santa Ana and Adelanto.