Black Lives Matter protests continued shifting outside the downtown Bakersfield region, with one taking place Friday night at the intersection of Calloway Drive and Hageman Road.
An eclectic group gathered between 6 and 7 p.m., with about 100 to 150 counter-protesters forming on the northeast corner of the intersection and about 75 BLM protesters congregating on the northwest corner.
Taking place at RiverLakes Church, also located at the intersection, was a vigil with about 100 in attendance engaged in a community prayer in honor of George Floyd, Bakersfield and the country as a whole. The city witnessed its eighth straight day of protests Friday in the aftermath of Floyd’s Memorial Day death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Some counter-protesters arrived in military-style vehicles and holding American flags, Trump 2020 flags and pro-law enforcement flags. They said they came to protect their neighborhood.
As of 7:15 p.m., the protest was peaceful. Scott Henderson said he didn’t have a problem with BLM protesters and supported their reasons for making a statement. He said it’s the first protest he’s ever attended, and his main objective was to keep the area safe from looting and vandalism.
“My message here today is just simply to say two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said. “And the actions of one-tenth of 1 percent of a police officer in Minneapolis shouldn’t boil over the entire country. We are just getting over a difficult economy that has struggled due to the COVID-19 virus. Now we’re getting over a situation of police brutality probably stimulated by racism. But again, millions of dollars of looting, deaths in double-digits don’t justify one person brutally ended in an arrest.
“It was wrong. Let’s let the judicial system work. Let it go to court, let them go to jail, let them go to prison.”
At around 7:30 p.m., the gathering shifted to the intersection of Rosedale Highway and Calloway Drive. BLM protesters congregated at a Chevron gas station while counter-protesters went to a CVS on an opposite corner of the street.
Things became more spirited, with the BLM side chanting loudly and cars driving by shouting various things to the crowd and honking horns.
“I have 10 kids and I have encountered some things with police officers with my own sons,” said Janice Gary, a pastor of 19 years at Bread of Life Deliverance Ministries. “My son had just left my house and the police stopped him and said he fit the description of a robbery suspect. I just want to be equal. I’ve encountered a lot of people in my ministry that have dealt with what’s going on now.
“That’s why I’m out here. Let’s change. Let’s make a difference, let’s make it equal for everybody, that’s all I want.”
As of The Californian’s print deadline, the gathering was about 300 to 400 people. Members from each side began crossing the street and joining the other group, although all interactions were nonviolent.
When six police cars drove by in a caravan, the counter-protesters erupted in cheers.
Just before 10 p.m., smoke bombs were thrown and about 20 police cars arrived. Officers ruled the gathering an unlawful assembly and told people to disperse or risk being arrested.
There were no injuries or arrests reported by the Bakersfield Police Department.