Protests and rallies in cities across America were ignited by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Former officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, has been charged with murder.
Calvin Bransford Jr., a 2015 Stebbins High School graduate, organized the event in partnership with The Solution Movement.
Bransford said he grew up in Riverside and wouldn’t consider it a racist city, but added he believes there is injustice that goes on.
Hafeeza Hickman graduated from Stebbins in 2016 and is currently a Central State student.
Hickman said she experienced racism in her time at Stebbins. She recalled a time her senior year when a Black Sinclair professor came to teach a college credit class. One day the professor strayed from the curriculum and wanted to teach about white privilege. Hickman said the white students in class became irate and yelled at the professor.
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The administration stopped the class and the professor from coming back, Hickman said.
“We missed out on a three credit hour college course because of that,” she said. “That was a big deal for me.”
The demonstrators listened to several speakers, including Bransford and Hickman, before taking a moment of silence for those killed by police brutality.
“We don’t want to continue to see people treated wrongly, we don’t want to see murders on TV,” Bransford said. “We can see that racism exists, it’s going on.”
He said that could be seen in the Stebbins High School mascot — the Indians. Bransford was wearing a black Stebbins shirt inside-out because of the Indian logo on the front.
“We’re not going to stop,” Bransford said. “We need to continue to put pressure on the people in power.”
Also speaking at the event were Riverside Police Chief Frank Robinson and Riverside Mayor Pete Williams. The mayor said the protest is a good start, but that the city will continue to work.
“Words without deeds are empty,” Williams said. “It doesn’t end tonight at 9 p.m., it continues.”
Robinson said anyone is welcome to come see police records or video, and that he supports the protesters.
In addition to the mayor and police chief, City Manager Mark Carpenter and Councilwoman April Franklin attended the demonstration.
A group of nearly 20 counterprotesters gathered at the Eastwood Auto Wash and Laundry Center on Valley Street. Several people in the group said that their friend owns the car wash and they wanted to make sure nothing happened to the business.
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Some of the counterprotesters shouted racial slurs and revved their motorcycle engines at the group protesting. At one point, protesters took a knee in front of the counterprotesters.
Asia Gibbs, founder of The Solution Movement, urged protesters to not engage with the group across the street.
“You know why those people don’t bother me?” Gibbs said. “When I tell you, it will break your heart… because I work with those people, I live near them.”
Hickman said she was glad to see the counter-protesters.
“I’m glad they’re here, because people can see that there are racists in Riverside and that racism does exist here,” Hickman said. “I want to see more protests in Riverside because there is more work to be done.”