About two dozen protesters stood in front of Kern County Superior Court next to the Liberty Bell Thursday morning to make a statement about police brutality.
Witnesses to the alleged beating of David Sal Silva by local sheriff's deputies and other community members held signs reading "protection of our rights" and "stop police brutality" and cheered when drivers honked at the group.
"I didn't know the family, but I am here because it's quite obvious what happened that night and when the sheriff's department took those phones, that did it for me," Larcenia Taylor, 59, said as she held a sign that read "K.C. Sheriff's Dept. B.P.D. and C.H.P. Your Fired."
"To me this is the saddest month for Kern County because it seems like we can't even trust the police department and that isn't a good sign."
Many protesters also wore Vendetta masks concealing their identities. Vendetta is the protagonist of the comic book series "V for Vendetta," who is a mysterious anarchist, vigilante and freedom fighter.
Present at the protest was Silva's brother, Christopher Silva, who said he is hoping people investigate and find out what happened the night his brother died.
Silva, 33 and the father of four young children, died early May 8 after deputies say he fought with them and CHP officers who'd responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man outside Kern Medical Center, on the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive.
Silva was struck with a baton several times as he fought with deputies, sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt has said.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood has urged the public to be patient and let the investigation conclude before drawing conclusions about what happened. The sheriff's department is investigating the deputies' actions; Youngblood has asked the FBI to conduct a parallel investigation.
"I believe in my heart that someone has to investigate this and find out why it happened and why it's been happening, please, just give my brother justice," Silva said.
Standing with a poster, Melissa Quair, the organizer of the protest, said she doesn't want people to think she is speaking out to get fame. She said she is doing so to encourage other community members to speak out and not be afraid of law enforcement.
Quair is the daughter of Maria Melendez, who had taken video the night of the incident, but found out Wednesday that no video was found on her phone.
"Our rights were violated," Quair said. "This makes me want to film wherever I go and if anything happens, I am not afraid to film and put that information out there."
Sharing firsthand experience with a police brutality incident, Alicia Moore, 37, wore a shirt with a picture of James W. Moore, who died six days after he was beaten by detention deputies the night he was arrested on suspicion of drug use and making criminal threats.
Moore, 30, died in 2005. He was Alicia's son's father.
"We shouldn't be afraid of calling law enforcement," she said. "The fear that if we call them we might be beaten, arrested or even killed should not exist."
At a viewing for Silva Thursday afternoon at Greenlawn Cemetery, friends and family attended to support the Silva family.
Ambrosio Nobles, 56, remembered Silva as a regular guy with whom he would hang out and talk about life.
“We would have birthday parties for our kids and we would invite David and his kids to come over and it was just that type of bond that we had, we were like a close family,” Nobles said.
With tears in her eyes, Cynthia Oliver, a close family friend of Silva’s father, Sal Silva, said she was very affected by the situation.
“David was a family guy who loved his kids and family was everything to him,” Oliver said, fighting back those tears. “He was a gentle, caring, loving type of guy, like a teddy bear who wouldn’t hurt anybody.”