Prior to a fourth night of protests in downtown Bakersfield, a candlelight vigil was held at the Liberty Bell on Truxtun Avenue in an attempt to foster peace and harmony in the local community.
The vigil’s organizer, Pastor Angelo Frazier of RiverLakes Community Church, was visibly emotional as he started the first prayer. Fellow pastors, church members and activists spoke words of prayer and unity to about 100 people in attendance.
“We’re going to see change take place, that’s what faith is all about,” said Pastor Rodney Washington of Victory Outreach Southwest Bakersfield.
A large wooden cross posted with images requesting prayers for Bakersfield, restoring America, George Floyd and the Bakersfield Police Department was the centerpiece of the vigil.
Speakers voiced concerns about the state of the country and its youth, as nationwide protests and riots have played out since Floyd’s killing while in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis. Local protesters and their families were also the focus of prayers.
Hours later, demonstrations sprung up downtown for the fourth consecutive evening. A group of about 100 people — many appearing to be young adults — began marching Bakersfield city streets at about 6:30 p.m., chanting in harmony and engaging with onlookers and nearby drivers.
At one point, a man in a large gray pickup truck drove toward the protesters in what appeared to be an attempt to intimidate. Demonstrators cleared out of the roadway before continuing south on M Street.
When the protesters arrived at Bakersfield Police Department headquarters on Truxtun Avenue, they were met by members of the vigil who offered water, well wishes and prayer.
Will Gutierrez spoke about the power of faith and prayer to the group.
“God inspired me to give the speech,” he said. “Right now, we’re seeing a lot of looting in other cities and I just wanted to pray for the protesters and the officers.”
Frazier said: “We can deal with our problems in a civil matter. I’ve been here for 30 years and this is my community too, and hopefully this will encourage others to do this other places.”
The group congregated at the intersection of Truxtun Avenue and H Street for about an hour before heading north on H Street around 8 p.m. At that point, the protest was of the peaceful variety.
“We’re not rioting, we’re not looting and anyone who is, they’re not part of our peaceful protest,” said participant Jordin Lewis.
Lewis did talk about being racially profiled in the community and the impact it has had.
“The kind of change I want to see is me not getting out of a store and BPD following me around town and pulling me over for nothing,” he said.
Bakersfield Police Department spokesman Sgt. Nathan McCauley said the accusation is unfounded.
“In no way, shape or form is racism tolerated in BPD. It is condemned in our department,” he said. “It’s not something we tolerate.”
The group eventually headed east on 24th Street and then south on Chester Avenue before returning to BPD headquarters where various demonstrators spoke on the need for police reform and accountability.
At 9 p.m., about 200 people continued to engage in nonviolent protest. The group eventually went on another loop around the city before returning to BPD before things appeared to disperse just before 10:30.