Hundreds of protesters converged on Palm Desert Civic Center Park Monday afternoon with the crowd continuing to grow exponentially into the evening, with many wearing masks chanting “I can’t breathe.”
Media reports indicated about 100 were gathered at 4 p.m. and more than 500 by 5 p.m., about an hour before the start of the countywide curfew issued to guard against civil unrest in response to last Monday’s in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Organizers requested on social media before the start of the event that would-be demonstrators keep themselves in line, and as of 5 p.m. the crowd has remained peaceful.
“We are in no way, shape, or form promoting violence,” an unverified Instagram post from an account called coachellavalleyactivists reads.
Riverside County officials announced earlier on Monday that a countywide curfew would be in effect from 6 p.m. Monday evening through 6 a.m. Tuesday for everyone but essential workers in response to weekend protests throughout Southern California morphed into instances of rioting and looting.
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. 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 to Palm Desert City Hall.
In a subsequent post, organizers addressed unverified reports that demonstrators from out of the area were set to be bused in “with the intention of looting and rioting.”
“We have no contact with them, we are not even aware of who they are,” according to the post.
Even prior to the location change of the demonstration, many local 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.