On the evening of Sunday, May 31, hundreds took to downtown San Bernardino to peacefully protest the black lives lost at the hands of white supremacy.
In less than a 24-hour time span, the city experienced a peaceful protest led by one group, which was followed by rioting and looting by another group, and finally a citywide cleanup on the morning of Monday, June 1.
“As emotional, and at times disturbing as this weekend’s events have been, I choose to see this as an opportunity for us to come together to truly address the systemic racism that has disadvantaged a specific segment of our American family. On June 2, leaders of our community (came) to the County’s Government Center to ask us to listen, to begin the dialogue, and to initiate change right here in San Bernardino County,” said Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Josie Gonzales.
Back at the peaceful protest, which began at city hall, protesters also made stops at the San Bernardino Justice Center and police department.
“The protest was beautiful, it’s so comforting to see hundreds of people, from all walks of life, coming together. The crowd was diverse and vibrant. Seeing people’s kindness and compassion transcend in many ways in so therapeutic— the smallest acts of kindness from giving out water, food, or shouting ‘I love you’ to others,” said Esmeralda Vazquez, protester.
Overall, the estimated 500-person led protest was said to be very organized, implementing traffic coordinators, while utilizing COVID-19 safety measures by wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
“The peaceful protest was a beautiful sight to see, filled with people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. We marched in unity, some burned sage, blew bubbles, and chanted ‘Black lives matter,’ ‘No justice, no peace,’ and ‘I can’t breathe,’ together in unison,” said Darrell Frye, protester.
Unfortunately, the protest ended with much rioting and looting of numerous local businesses, with areas along Baseline and Waterman Avenue being hit the hardest.
“The looters used the protest as a cover for committing crimes. I talked to, met, and saw many of the protesters during the organized portion and they just wanted justice, but not by going as far as to damage property or hurt anybody,” said David Friedman, co-owner of Viva La Boba.
Many of the peaceful protesters were disappointed to arrive home, only to witness businesses being broken into, looted, burned and tagged, live on social media.
“The protesters are a part of a movement, a movement calling for the abolishment of racism and police brutality, a movement for the love of humanity. The looters are unknown, they exist everyday, they are not just an aftermath of protests. The damage that was caused to San Bernardino after the protest hurt because I knew that people would blame us, would blame me as a participant of the march,” continued Vazquez.
“It’s frustrating because there is so much incorrect and negative rhetoric going around, rumors exaggerating the damage that was done, for example the Waterman Discount Mall was not burned down. This misinformation is damaging to the movement. It takes away from the reason we are marching and protesting,” concluded Vazquez.
Immediately, while the chaos was ensuing on the streets of San Bernardino, numerous community activists and groups organized the San Bernardino Cleanup.
The city’s cleanup crew included Vasquez, Frye, and Friedman…who were present, in various locations, from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., handing out food, drinks, and supplies, while covering graffiti, sweeping up glass and revitalizing the city.
“I joined alongside my church tribe, All Nations San Bernardino, to set up on the corner of Baseline Street and Waterman Avenue to pray for community members, pass out water, cleaning supplies and together we cleaned up areas that were destroyed,” concluded Frye.
On June 1, a citywide 6 p.m. curfew was issued and will continue nightly through the duration of the State of Emergency declared on Sunday evening.
For more information, visit sbcity.org.