Two protests Friday in Riverside denouncing law enforcement abuses were largely quiet and contrasted sharply with a large-scale demonstration earlier in the week that ended with confrontations between demonstrators and police.
Outside the Main Library at Orange Street and Mission Inn Avenue, roughly 300 people gathered about 4 p.m. to hear speakers and listen to bands on a makeshift stage.
The relaxed setting had almost a picnic atmosphere several hours later, though a bevy of people waved signs, which included “Defund Police” and “R U the Solution or the Problem?”
In front of Riverside City Hall, about 75 people gathered to listen to music and hear fellow demonstrators speak. People carried signs and wore T-shirts that read “Strong, Black And Proud,” “We Can’t Breathe,” and “No Justice, No Peace.”
The location was the same spot where nearly 2,000 protesters assembled for a vigil that ended without incident Thursday evening, according to Riverside police spokesman Ryan Railsback.
All businesses throughout the downtown area were shuttered, many of them boarded up, while the events were underway.
On the plywood shields fronting the establishments, people made graffiti art. One message stated, “The Goal Is Change.” Another read, “We Stand with You.”
Riverside police officers stood by and observed the City Hall gathering, while patrol units and remote-controlled drones operated by officers atop a nearby building monitored the Main Library crowd.
The police department’s Star 9 helicopter crew also circled the downtown area.
At Orange and 10th streets, as well as at Lemon and 10th, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies deployed in a defensive perimeter to dissuade protesters from trying to access the area around the Robert Presley Detention Center and the Riverside Historic Courthouse.
There was no word on arrests or disturbances related to the protests, which like Monday, were predicated on the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man who died during what Minneapolis police say was an act of resisting arrest.
Officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin were dismissed because of the death and what has been alleged by Hennepin County authorities as excessive force and a deliberate act of violence. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder. His ex-colleagues are charged with aiding and abetting manslaughter.
Critics have spotlighted the detainee’s death as an illustration of wider law enforcement abuses.
On Monday, nearly 6,000 people massed at the Main Library in Riverside and proceeded to march to the intersection of Orange and 10th, where a skirmish line of more than 100 deputies and police officers clad in riot gear faced them.
The protest was replete with derogatory outcries, with some participants repeatedly shouting “(expletive) the police,” but at no time in the first 2 1/2 hours of the outing did there appear to be acts of aggression, physical violence or intimidation.
However, in the last hour of the gathering, as a curfew hour passed, several unidentified parties began hurling pyrotechnics at law enforcement personnel, who immediately issued dispersal orders.
Seven people were arrested as deputies and officers, with the help of the California Highway Patrol, advanced to the east, causing the crowds to fragment, with people fleeing in multiple directions.
There was an attempt to loot a CVS Pharmacy on Market Street, and according to Railsback, several businesses between Tenth and Mission Inn were targeted by graffiti vandals, and there were a few broken windows.
A dumpster fire was reported near the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, but Riverside firefighters doused the flames moments later.
No injuries were reported in connection with Monday’s protest.
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