Protest in Bakersfield calls for change after recent shootings

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Participants of the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest march and chant in downtown Bakersfield on Saturday, July 9. Photo by Ben Patton/The Runner

Esteban Ramirez

Photos by AJ Alvarado and Ben Patton/The Runner

 

Managing Editor

 

Chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” rang along downtown Bakersfield as a peaceful protest was held Saturday to help improve the relationships between law enforcement and the community.

In the wake of the recent fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La. and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minn., three current and former Golden Valley High School students organized the event through the Black Lives Matter, Bakersfield Facebook page.

Nathallie Hughes, 17, Julia Lyle, 18, and Maria Flores, 18, were the leaders of the protest and the administrators of the Facebook page.

“What I want more than anything is to create dialogue,” Hughes said before the march started. “I want dialogue between people of Bakersfield and the police.”

Hughes, Flores and Lyle all said they talked about social injustice before, but when the shootings happened last week, they decided to do something.

“It had been too much,” Flores said. “It was a breaking point.”

The protest started in front of the Fox Theatre, they marched along 21st Street before ending in front of the Bakersfield Police Department.

Hughes believes there is fear from the black community toward the police.

“They shouldn’t be operating out of fear,” she said. “It shouldn’t be ‘you are going to obey the law because if you don’t we are going to kill you.’ It should be ‘you are going to obey the law, you are going to grow up learning what the laws are and you are going to want to follow them.’ Because I feel like if you lost respect for the police, then you lose respect for authority and you lose respect for the law.”

Participant Kev King, who is a radio DJ for Hot 94.1, said it is inhumane how black people are being treated by police officers.

“White parents will never have to have a conversation with their sons that, ‘hey, when a cop pulls you over, put your hands up.’ I have to have a conversation like that,” King said. “That’s weird. That’s way out. That’s not human. That’s not humane. You have to condition yourself in a certain way, just so we can go home to our families.”

About 100 people came out to support the cause.

Flores said they weren’t expecting that big of a turnout for the first Black Lives Matter protest.

“We thought it was just going to be our friends, but this is beautiful,” she said.

Lyle hopes in a few weeks they can have an even bigger turnout. Flores said they will do more peaceful protests but not 100 percent sure when the next one will be.

Participant Dickie Holman, who is a pastor, said all the killings need to stop and they can only do that by joining together.

“I always say if we pray together, we stay together,” Holman said. “We need unity.”

People of different races participated in the protest, and Flores said it is needed to help create change.

“It’s beautiful. It’s amazing,” she said. “We need people who aren’t of color to come and support us. We need it because without the voice of the oppressors, we will stay oppressed.”

Lyle added: “we have a beautiful clump of culture in front of this building chanting ‘Black Lives Matter’ proving that black lives matter.”

Dominic Brooks, 22, who is a Bakersfield College student and member of the football team, said he was happy to see people of different races supporting Black Lives Matter.

“It means a lot because there are more Latinos and there are more white people than there are black people,” he said. “This is something that is affecting black people but there aren’t that many out here, so to have all these races supporting this movement, it really means a lot.”

As they arrived in front of the BPD building, they took a moment of silence for the police officers from Dallas, Tex. that were killed on July 7 and for people who were killed by police officers.

Lyle said they would like for BPD to at least acknowledge that black lives do matter.

“We’re outside of the building right now, and are you too much of a coward to come right here and say black lives matter just as much as those lives matter and just as much as those other lives matter? Come out. Say something. Acknowledge it,” she said. “Don’t sit there in silence because if you are sitting there in silence, you are just as bad as someone that says just all lives matter.”

Hughes hopes that this protest will change the prospective of how some people view Black Lives Matter.

Flores added she wants the movement to change how people feel when they see a police officer.

“I don’t want to feel fearful of a police officer when I see them,” she said. “I don’t want to feel like I can’t call them.”