Several hundred protesters ventured into the middle of a street near Palm Desert City Hall this evening, where they held a brief moment of silence while taking a knee in response to the death of George Floyd.
The crowd, which grew to about 500 at its peak, remained peaceful as of 5:30 p.m.
But as the start of the countywide curfew issued to guard against civil unrest began at 6 p.m., the crowd did not immediately subside, despite a request by organizers over social media as the start of the curfew approached.
“Please head home. Do not invoke violence,” reads an Instagram post from an account called coachellavalleyactivists.
Protest slogans including “I can’t breathe,” “Black lives matter,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” were cycled through by the protesters throughout the afternoon.
Handwritten signs broadcasted messages including “Enough is enough,” “Silence is betrayal” and “Amerikkka was never great.”
Riverside County officials announced earlier on Monday that a countywide curfew would be in effect from 6 p.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Tuesday for everyone but essential workers in response to weekend protests throughout Southern California that morphed into instances of rioting and looting.
Despite sheriff’s deputies remaining near the protesters location in Palm Desert as of 6:30 p.m., it was not immediately clear how deputies would enforce the curfew as the evening approached.
The curfew forced organizers of the Palm Desert protest to start an hour earlier than originally planned. Organizers of a separate vigil set for Monday evening at an Indio park were forced to postpone their event. No future date was released.
The protest was originally set to take place at Palm Desert’s upscale El Paseo shopping district. That gathering was relocated by organizers closer to Palm Desert City Hall, but demonstrators eventually left a nearby park before taking to Fred Warring Drive where they headed toward El Paseo.
Even before the location change of the demonstration, many business owners along El Paseo weren’t taking any chances. Mindful of destruction waged in other shopping districts in Southern California, they installed protective plywood barriers over their shop windows.
In Palm Springs earlier on Monday, upwards of 50 demonstrators gathered on a downtown street corner.
The demonstration was organized by the Coachella Valley arm of the advocacy group Courageous Resistance. No problems were reported.
“If you see injustice, you need to do something about it,” an organizer who did not give his name told KESQ as he held a sign reading “Silence = Complicacy.”
“If you are silent in the face of injustice, you become part of that injustice yourself,” he said.
Palm Springs police were on hand keeping an eye on the demonstrators, with some officers handing out free water bottles to participants as the temperature hit the mid-90s, while others watched the scene from a nearby rooftop.
Floyd died last Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis Police Department officer, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on the 46-year-old man’s neck for several minutes while three other officers looked on.
Video footage of the arrest, in which Floyd is heard saying “I can’t breathe,” spread widely online, and all four officers were fired.
Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday.
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