The Black Live’s Matter Protest Rally that had been abruptly cancelled late Monday night because of “real threats” according to the original organizer worried about the safety of his family, friends and those that would attend, went on as planned on Tuesday morning at Bishop City Park with an estimated crowd of at least 130 to 140, mostly young protesters.
Local young people from Bishop and the surrounding area spontaneously, using social networking platforms such as such as Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram, Tik Toc, and Private Chat rooms, put the protest back into play within hours of the announced cancellation. These are social media platforms not typically used by many of their parents and older adults who prefer texting and Facebook.
Many of the older adults intending to participate, never heard that the young people had “uncancelled” it, and that it was going to happen regardless of threats posted by some on local Facebook pages.
The crowd was composed mostly of young adults, students and graduates of Bishop High School, and college students, along with some older adults. Collectively, they represented just about every race and ethnicity that makes up America today. There were White-Americans, Black-Americans, Native-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latino-Americans, and other groups represented.There were no reports of rioting, looting, assault, or mayhem. There was no destruction of property, nor was there an Antifa group arriving by bus from parts unknown reported that had been ridiculously posted on several Facebook sites.
Eighteen-year-old Jennifer Velazquez, a 2019 graduate of Bishop Union High School, asked what she thought of the protest, said, “This is really great! I was skeptical at first and had not decided to attend until I heard about the threats made and that it had been cancelled because of it. This was my only opportunity to show my support of Black Lives Matter.” She was joined by fellow graduate, Josh Santana, and fellow protester, Sara Steck.
Local church leaders also attended to lend support as well.
Youth Pastor/Assistant to the Pastor at Oasis of Grace Foursquare Church, Jeremiah Girard and Fr. Cam Lemons of the St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, who also brought his daughter, Grace, attended the protest to” speak out against racism.”
Darrell Spearman, a 52-year-old African American from Memphis, Tenn., told Sierra Wave that he was really impressed with what he was witnessing while here in California. “It’s impressive to see all these young people standing up for justice and an end to racism. It’s truly amazing.”
Local law enforcement kept a discreet presence. Both the police chief in the City of Bishop and the Town of Mammoth Lakes released statements on their departments’ policies on the use of equipment, such as cameras, etc. and types of training and procedures used by the departments to reassure the public that they will protect the rights of all citizens to protest without fear for their safety, as well as the safety of everyone in the community.
It was a video showing Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on the neck of a black man, later identified as George Floyd, who was killed after the officer ignored the victim’s recorded and repeated pleas to “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe” that created the circumstances now being witnessed across the country. Three other police officers looked on and did nothing, which outraged the country, including police, and spurred the Black Lives Matter protests. Chauvin has been charged with 2nd-degree murder and the other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting 2nd-degree murder.
The outrage has resulted in over a week of rioting, looting, injuries and even deaths of some protesters and police officers across the country. It has placed law enforcement in the very awkward position of having their primary purpose, which is to protect lives and property, while also trying to protect their communities while respecting the constitutional right of the people to assemble and protest.
The right to protest is protected by both the U.S. Constitution and many state constitutions, and state and federal laws. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.
On the other hand, it is generally recognized that one of the most important rights any citizen should have is the right to live…and breathe.
The Minneapolis police arrest video outraged most of the country, including most police officers, and has spurred protests and marches across the country over the past week. Sadly, many of the marches in larger, major cities, have resulted in rioting, looting, destruction of property. More importantly, citizens exercising their civil right to protest, and the very police officers charged with protecting them, are being harmed and, in some instances, killed.
Tuesday’s protest was not an anti-America rally nor an anti-police rally. And nor was it a group of outsider agitators, such as “Antifa” members, or looters intent on destruction bused in from other areas of the state as some unscrupulous posts on local social media attempted to portray it.
Bishop and the other communities of the Eastern Sierra are not seething hotbeds of social malcontent ready to explode into social unrest and violence or allow outsiders to come into the area and harm our environment and communities. That is just not who we are.