Demonstrations’ Tenor & Civility Around SB County Widely Vary

Protests in reaction to the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, ones of varying degrees of intensity and civility, have been carried out over the last week at locations throughout San Bernardino County.
Protests in Rancho Cucamonga were staged at the high-traffic-volume intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Day Creek Boulevard, which event was a carryover of a similar protest on May 29. At the May 29 protest, 13 arrests were made after protesters threw bottles and rocks at sheriff’s department deputies who were dispatched to the scene to keep order. At the May 30 rally, there were some reports of vandalism, but no arrests.
The following day, Sunday, May 31, in Rancho Cucamonga, what started as a verbal confrontation between members of the crowd and an Uber driver devolved into protesters throwing an object at the Uber vehicle, which broke one of the car’s windows. The driver responded by pepper-spraying members of the crowd. A more intensive confrontation was avoided when he made a hurried exit from the intersection, but almost ran down some pedestrians in a crosswalk as he was leaving.
After the driver called the sheriff’s department, which provides law enforcement services to Rancho Cucamonga, deputies with the Sheriff’s Department Mobile Field Force team declared the protest had devolved into an unlawful assembly. That provoked a number of verbal taunts being hurled at the arriving deputies, but no arrests were made.
A crowd of protesters estimated at between 200 and 300 assembled at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Peyton Drive in Chino Hills on Sunday afternoon, May 31. Theirs was a peaceable demonstration which featured banners and signs bearing slogans such as “Stop the Killing” and “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Perhaps as many as 500 people participated in a largely peaceful set of gatherings in Redlands that began in the late morning and lasted into the afternoon on Sunday. One contingent marched downtown, where those involved took a symbolic knee at Ed Hales Park. That gesture was repeated outside the Redlands Police Department on Orange and Vine streets. There were some minor incidents of vandalism that were reported.
Around the same time on Sunday, a much more intensive display of anger and resentment toward authorities took place in San Bernardino. By late afternoon, that mass protest had become the most violent and destructive one to occur in the county, going well beyond what had occurred in Fontana last week, on May 28.
Protesters made their first show of overwhelming presence near, around and on the off-ramp from the 215 Freeway at Second Street. Some reached the freeway level, but did not interfere with the 60-mile-per-hour traffic.
The protest then manifested a bit later en masse in the downtown area, near State of California, County of San Bernardino and San Bernardino city buildings, including both courthouses, the county administrative headquarters, the district attorney’s office and City Hall. There was at that point a fair degree of vandalism, including graffiti mark-ups. Windows were broken at the Bank of America at 303 N. D Street, which is proximate to San Bernardino City Hall, and across D Street from the Guatemalan consulate and across Third Street from the Mexican consulate.
As marchers progressed through downtown, they headed, eventually, up D Street where they surrounded the police department. By that point, the department had activated the entirety of its roughly 250 sworn personnel, three-fourths of whom were at that point working overtime. Another 150 peace officers from nearby law enforcement agencies, including those with the California Highway Patrol and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, were in San Bernardino by 4 p.m. There was a tense stand-off at the police department headquarters at 710 North D Street as a number of officers were stationed inside in the lobby, visible from outside of the building through the glass entranceway into the building at the back of the building’s portico. A command decision was made to not have officers exit the building, out of concern that would provoke a large scale physical confrontation that might lead to violence and perhaps fatalities. As the crowd outside police headquarters grew increasingly agitated, some provocateurs suggested that an effort to break out the building’s glass wall and doors on the ground floor be made so the building could be stormed. A religious group, however, had pushed its way to the front of the crowd within the portico and took up a collective prayer. Subsequently, the crowd left the police department headquarters and made its way eastward, where it congregated in the parking lot of the Waterman Discount Mall. As nightfall approached, looting began there. In time, looting would spread to other areas of the city.
With nightfall, numerous fires were lit. Responding police were pelted with rocks, bottles and other objects. There were reports that gunfire was trained on some officers. No injuries from gunfire were reported, however. Windows were broken out in various commercial and professional buildings on Waterman, Baseline Avenue and Highland Avenue in the city’s most heavily concentrated commercial districts. Some of the looting and vandalism spilled over into neighboring Highland that night.
A sheriff’s department helicopter in the evening circled overhead, informing those on the streets that the protest had been declared an unlawful assembly and those who remained in the area would be subject to arrest.
Police Chief Eric McBride on Wednesday reported to the city council that a total of 32 arrests had been made Sunday evening and Monday morning. “I would have to say about two-thirds of the arrests we made were for people with addresses outside the city,” McBride said.
McBride added that much of the protest appeared to be driven by organizers who were using social media to vector those participating to different points of congregation.
At the Waterman Discount Mall the officers were in the presence of a clearly unruly mob engaging in criminal activity, McBride said. The officers, however, did not wade into the crowd to effectuate arrests. McBride estimated that the officers on the scene there were “outnumbered ten-to-one.”
Many officers, McBride said “sustained bruises” that evening.
The number of officers from outside law enforcement agencies that came into San Bernardino to augment the city’s 250 officers rose from 150 in the late afternoon to nearly to 250 that evening. At one point, McBride said “We had close to 500 officers in the city.”
McBride reported to the city council that “Probably until about two in the morning we were encountering looting throughout the city.”
Two major sporting goods stores and both of the city’s Walmarts were looted. A show of police force at the Inland Center Mall, the Target on Orange Show Drive and businesses on Hospitality Lane deterred looting there.
In Rancho Cucamonga on June 1, a fourth straight day of protests were staged. Late in the day, just prior to sunset, eight cars carrying protesters arrived near the Victorian Gardens Mall. Rancho Cucamonga-based sheriff’s deputies approached them as they were exiting their vehicles. Upon ascertaining that they were out-of-towners who had come to the city to protest, the deputies instructed them to leave. When some of those who had arrived refused to depart, the deputies arrested seven of them on various charges.
In the aftermath of what happened on Sunday night and early Monday morning in San Bernardino, protests in two of the county’s other cities provoked reactionary citizen or resident reaction which carried with it fatal potential.
In Yucaipa, a group of earnest protesters marching on Yuciapa Boulevard on Monday was met by an equally determined group of local counterprotestors. What was described as a gang fight ensued, with one man severely injured in the melee. Far greater mayhem was avoided after the sheriff’s department arrived. An arrest was made. A sheriff’s department investigator clad in civilian clothes who made his way into the crowd and interacted with individuals on both sides of the dispute learned that large numbers of city residents present in the area were armed as a preparation to prevent any looting that might break out. As a consequence, what was calculated to be sufficient numbers of sheriff’s department patrol units were dispatched to the area to head off any further confrontations.
Also on Monday, some 37 miles west of Yucaipa in Upland, demonstrators assembled near the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Euclid Avenue. What was estimated to be upwards of 300 demonstrators made their way to the Euclid Avenue median north of Foothill Boulevard near architect August Leimbach’s iconic “Madonna of the Trail” statue that faces southward at the intersection. As the afternoon progressed and commuters coming home from work intensified the traffic moving northward on Euclid Avenue, more and more protesters, in an effort to encourage those passing motorists to acknowledge and take stock of the expression of disapproval of police violence and brutality, began blocking the northbound lanes of Euclid. By this point, residents of homes lining the east side of Euclid, having grown increasingly wary of anticipated damage to their property, assembled themselves in their front yards and summoned others to stand with them to repel the crowd should it prove unruly or intent on vandalizing those private properties. At one point, when the crowd surged eastward, one of those gathered with the residents retrieved a gun from his vehicle and brandished it, momentarily raising its barrel to a point parallel with the ground, while he profanely exhorted the crowd to back off. He was later arrested.
Many jurisdictions in San Bernardino County, as in Southern California generally, sought to impose curfews to prevent large gatherings in the evening hours when it was believed looting was most likely to occur.
Again in Yuciapa on Tuesday, self-designated protectors of the city engaged in mostly verbal confrontations with protesters. Those incidents did not reach the level of violence that had occurred there the previous day.
In Highland on Wednesday, a group of mostly peaceful protesters undertook to demonstrate, holding a benediction officiated over by the Reverend Ben Skaug of the Immanuel Baptist Church when the activists first gathered near Greenspot Road and the 210 Freeway. That demonstration proceeded much more peaceably than what had occurred Sunday evening at the periphery of Highland abutting San Bernardino.
At around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest was staged at Colton’s historic Carnegie Library, which is now used as the Colton Area Museum. In addition to registering their objections to the death of George Floyd and police brutality against African-Americans in general, the protesters also made note that the curators of the museum currently and in the past have refused to display any artifacts or materials relating to African-American personages or historical figures in the museum, and that the museum’s operators have spurned requests to host African-American themed events there, as well.
The Sentinel received a report that during the Colton protest, quick reaction by Colton police officers prevented a demonstrator from falling victim to a machete attack by a counterprotestor.
Earlier that day, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and a cross section of activists, writers, protesters and citizens, naming the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the City of San Bernardino, alleging the curfews in place in those places were an abridgment of Constitutional rights. Simultaneously, the executive director of Inland Congregations United for Change threatened legal action against San Bernardino if it did not dispense with its curfew. The San Bernardino City Council at its meeting Wednesday night moved the effective time of the city’s curfew from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., although the city’s website did not reflect the change, instead continuing to state the curfew was in effect at 6 p.m.
On Thursday, June 4 in Fontana, a somewhat more peaceful demonstration than what had taken place in that city on May 28 was held at Don Day Park. A relatively orderly crowd of 400, some bearing placards, gathered to hear speakers inveigh against what was called systemic racism within police agencies that resulted in the brutalizing of minority citizens by cops.
At roughly the same time, in Redlands, a crowd of protesters, ones hitting on the same themes articulated in Fontana, surrounded the entrance to the Redlands Police Department headquarters.
Today, Friday, June 5, the Sentinel received reports that protests are ongoing at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino, Heritage Intermediate School in Fontana, and in the 16400 block of Bear Valley Road at the Hesperia/Victorville city limits/boundary.

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