USA

Demonstrators fill downtown Riverside: 'I don't know if I'm next'

Thousands of protesters gathered Monday afternoon in downtown Riverside to call for justice for the death of George Floyd and others killed by police.

Mothers stood alongside daughters, young people danced, and students handed out water bottles and masks.

Fazein Kennon, 16, came to the march with 10 members of his family — his father, uncle, aunt and cousins.

“My family and I are tired of this, and this is one way to stand up, by peacefully protesting,” he said.

Christiana Ellis, 15, and her mother, Sherry Morton, 51, came to the protest together. Morton carried a sign that said: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Her daughter said Morton constantly worries about her safety and that of her family.

“I don’t want to see another black face on the news. I don’t know if I’m next,” Ellis said. “I wonder, what if my dad is out driving to get groceries, and he gets pulled over for a speeding ticket and ends up in a casket?”

Toni Moore and her daughter, Sorrelle Ellis, feared the worst was yet to come.

Moore has operated a clothing store in downtown Riverside since 1982 that had become a staple for the community. She thought they had survived the worst blow to their business during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders but was more afraid of the uncertainty that would come from the planned protest in Riverside.

She and her daughter drove to the store to board up the front door and remove merchandise, planning to stay until nightfall to protect the business from being harmed.

“After all these years, you become a part of the community, and you serve the community,” Moore said. “This all is unsettling. I’ve been there for a long time and have weathered many storms, but between COVID and this, I feel things are so out of control, I just don’t know if we’ll make it. Everybody is praying for survival through this, only to have something like this threaten you right on the heels of that.”

Before the protest began, many downtown businesses had boarded up their windows. Some painted or posted messages in support of protesters.

“Mexican owned, we stand with you,” one said. The sign on the boarded-up window of an Italian restaurant read: “The best activism is equal parts anger and love.”

When the 6 p.m. curfew went into effect, the majority of protesters left, but around 200 remained. Police declared an unlawful assembly and began to disperse the protesters using tear gas and rubber bullets.

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