APPLE VALLEY. Calif. On June 3rd, on the corner of Bear Valley Road and Jess Ranch Parkway, protests resumed in the High Desert over the death of George Floyd. As hundreds of activists marched and displayed signs demanding justice, a different crowd gathered in front of the Best Buy in the marketplace, saying they were there to prevent looting.
In a different protest on May 31st, there were reports of vandalism in the nearby shopping centers.
Princess Berry, 23, a Victorville resident of eight years, attended the protest because of her younger brother. “My little brother is getting older, and I had to have a talk with him the other day” about how he should behave during police interactions, she explains. Berry asked her brother: “Do you know what to do if you’re pulled over? Do you know what to do with your hands? Just making sure he knew better what to do, so police don’t kill my brother,” a conversation that is mandatory in the black community. When she saw the video of Floyd’s death, what stood out to her the most was “when he cried out for his mom.” To her, justice is the ex-cops not receiving any special treatment and being charged like anyone else.
Anthony Hardy, a Victorville resident who has lived in the High Desert since 1992, said the last time he attended a protest was when he was 14 after the Rodney King beating. He participated in this protest because “the truth needs to be heard.” When he saw the Floyd video, what stood out the most was “how he was crying out to his momma,” and the police officer kept his knee on his neck. As a high school student in the early 90’s, he says he saw racism during the race riots that broke out in Hesperia High School. Even today, he says some residents are “riding around with nooses hanging out the back of their trucks.” To Hardy, for justice to be served, laws need to be changed, so others do not die in a similar fashion.
On the protester’s side, things remained peaceful. Children were among the crowd, and some even led the gathered in chants with bull horns in hand. By sunset, a large crowd had gathered outside of the Best Buy. This crowd did not wave signs demanding justice for Floyd. Instead, they carried American and Trump 2020 flags, and some wore MAGA hats. Their position was that they were there to prevent looters.
Randy Sampias, from Pinon Hills and has lived in the High Desert since 1973, attended the gathering in front of Best Buy. After watching other protests turn violent on television, he says he was motivated to come and defend the store because he heard it could be looted. “As concerned citizens, we’re just kind of standing guard. Just being a patriot. I don’t want to watch our town burn.” Sampias says he watched the video of Floyd’s death. What stood out to him the most was that he should not have committed a crime or resisted arrest. In his opinion, justice for Floyd is already happening because the ex-cops have been arrested. “There’s no call for any of this. They’re handling it like they’re supposed to.” Sampias says he does not believe racism exists. “I’m a Vietnam Veteran. The only color I cared about is green.”
After the sun went down, around 8:32 pm, officers blocked traffic so protesters could cross to the Northside of Bear Valley and march towards Victor Valley College. As word reached the concerned citizens of the protester’s movement, several Jeeps and trucks went and parked by the riverbed creating an assembly area while deploying drones to the skies. By that time, police presence was heavy in the Best Buy parking lot. When protesters returned to the corner of Bear Valley Road and Jess Ranch Parkway around 9 pm, the trucks and Jeeps returned to the parking lot. When they got there, a young man by the name of Jesse Lawrence was standing with a sign that read “protect black people like you do target.” As he stood there, a crowd quickly gathered, and emotions ran high. Police were on scene to deescalate the situation. Eventually succeeding.
“I’m white, but I don’t like the injustice, and I think it needs to be heard around the world,” said protester Noelle Bantrager, a nine year resident of Lucerne Valley. After watching the video of Floyd’s death, she showed it to her sons, 9 and 10. She says she did it so they can learn from it and know that they can be different. Bantrager was raised in Arkansas, and as a little girl was taken to Ku Klux Klan rallies in her hometown. “You can be raised in that, but you don’t have to be like that.” In her opinion, racism is something that is handed down generationally. But love and acceptance can overcome it.
At approximately 9:26 pm, a police helicopter flying above best buy notified the gathered that their assembly was now unlawful. Warning all to leave or be arrested. Most vehicles left for the WinCo parking lot. By 10 pm, the protesters were also dispersed.
Keith Scott, a resident of Apple Valley and has lived locally since 1981, attended the gathering at Best Buy and retreated to the WinCo parking lot when cops told everyone to leave. The reason he came was that he read on social media that looting was going to take place. He says that people have a right to protest, but when Lawrence went to the Best Buy parking lot toting that sign, he got everyone riled up. In his opinion, all lives matter. When he saw the video of Floyd’s death, what stood out to him the most was that the media only showed when the knee was on his neck. In the past, he’s had unpleasant run-ins with cops, he explains. “We’re all scared of these people because they do have a little more authority than us. I understand what people mean. But when you got a race that acts animalicious [sic] to everything, how is that helping anything?” Scott believes the nation is divided by a system that has divided the people. He admits he is not sure if a solution to racism exists. What he wants people to keep in mind during these difficult times is that “you got to try to have an open heart.”
According to other news outlets, there were some reported incidents of violence against protesters by counter-protesters.
Protesters clash over a difference of opinion as a protester holds a sign that says “protect black people like you do target.”