Bakersfield · Hanford · Highlight · Visalia

Protests, car rammings serve as Valley’s visceral response to the death of George Floyd

As the death of George Floyd fuels protests – and riots – in communities coast-to-coast, the Valley played host to its own share of protests.

Here’s a look at how Valley communities handled Black Lives Matter protests over the weekend:

Retailers’ attempts to curb looting generate mixed results

After three straight nights of looting in other major metropolitan cities, Fresno-based retailers – in coordination with local law enforcement – sought to limit the possible damage on Sunday.

Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall, which reopened less than a week ago from a coronavirus shutdown, announced it would be closed on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Target stores in the Fresno-Clovis area shut down earlier-than-usual at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Despite the early closures, a Clovis-based Target location at Clovis and Shaw avenues was broken into late Sunday night by 10 to 15 looters, Clovis Police announced.

The individuals were targeting the store’s alcohol and electronic sections, police said.

Thieves also targeted The Vault jewelry store in Fresno’s Fig Garden Village late Sunday night, taking two window display cases, and a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in southeast Fresno.

Thousands hit the streets of downtown Fresno

A Sunday afternoon rally and march – launched from Fresno’s City Hall and concluding at the nearby headquarters of Fresno’s Police Department – garnered an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 marchers.

The protest, organized by the Fresno State NAACP chapter, brought a much younger crowd to Fresno’s civic center along with key elected leaders and representatives – Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias, Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, Fresno Mayoral advisor H Spees, and State Center Community College District Trustee Annalisa Perea, to name a few.

Despite the large crowd and heavy emotions, the event remained peaceful but concluded nearly an hour early on reports of potential agitators en route to convert the protest into a likely riot.

Protests in Visalia, Bakersfield turn bloody

Two days, two separate incidents of car rammings wracked protests in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

Friday evening, Michael Tran, a 31-year-old man, was arrested by the Bakersfield Police Department for driving his Toyota RAV-4 through a crowd of protesters in downtown Bakersfield

KGET reported that the man drove past the assembled crowd along Truxton Ave. multiple times before approaching them, rolling down his window to gesture to them, then accelerated and struct a 15-year-old girl, who suffered minor injuries.

Tran was booked into Kern County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder and held on $500,000 bail. He will be arraigned on June 9.

Saturday, a similar incident struck in Visalia, where a driver and two passengers in a Jeep Wrangler, adorned with American and Trump flags, hit a protester walking on Mooney Boulevard.

Social media chatter initially pointed blame at the son of a Visalia Police officer who attends California State University, Fresno.

Fresno State said it would conduct a review to determine if the men involved in the collision were Fresno State students.

In a statement, Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar said that none of the individuals in the vehicle were sons of police officers. However, one individual was an extended family member to a Visalia Police officer.

The officer in question is not involved in the investigation of the incident.

Neither the driver nor passengers were arrested. Visalia Police have submitted their findings to the Tulare County District Attorney for review.

Salazar, for his part, placed blame on the incident on both sets of parties.

“The driver of the vehicle acted irresponsibly,” Salazar said. “Protesters should not enter the roadway to impede vehicles or throw items as part of a peaceful protest.”

Kings County deputies assist in Los Angeles riots

Sheriff’s deputies with the Kings County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to Los Angeles County on Saturday to assist in mitigating and limiting the riots that have engulfed America’s second-largest city.

Saturday morning, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed that National Guard troops would not be needed to tamp down riots, claiming that “this isn’t 1992” – an allusion to the 1992 riots following the acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers in the beating of Rodney King.

Hours later, Garcetti walked back the claim and requested Gov. Gavin Newsom activate National Guard troops to be dispatched to Los Angeles.

Sunday morning, Kings County Sheriff David Robinson announced that all deputies returned to the south Valley safely.

The San Joaquin Valley Sun
Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.