Hundreds of protesters outraged at the death of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis police custody rallied in downtown Riverside on Monday afternoon, June 1.

The event, billed as a Stand in Solidarity demonstration, stems from the death of George Floyd, 46, who died May 25 in police custody after a Minneapolis officer kneeled on his neck. The officer was arrested Friday and charged with murder while three other officers, who were involved in the arrest, were also fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Gathering outside the Riverside Public Library, protesters of all races shouted “Black lives, they matter here” and “Black lives matter.” Prompted by a speaker, they yelled “It’s our duty to fight for freedom.”

Protesters eventually filled Mission Inn Avenue in the heart of downtown. About 40 minutes in, protesters began marching west down Mission Inn before heading along Market Street and Sixth Street.

Marchers on Orange Street stopped at Tenth Street, where a row of Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, wearing riot helmets and clutching batons, formed a line.

Overhead, a plane flew with the banner: “We love the police.”

Among the protesters was Jessica, Brown, a 25-year-old Cypress resident, who held a sign reading: “We want equal sentencing!”

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“I’ve noticed over the past few years that if you kill someone black, you get substantially less time than if you kill someone white,” she said. “It’s been painful for me to see.”

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, addressed protesters and got them to shout “Protest vote.”

A similar protest took place Monday in Corona and another was planned for this evening in Moreno Valley.

Before the Riverside protest, police closed off the eastbound 91 Freeway exits at 14th Street and University Avenue and the westbound 91 exit at 14th.

A number of businesses near the library, in the 3500 block of Mission Inn Avenue, boarded up their windows, including the Fox Performing Arts Center. Public parking garages were closed and side streets were closed off.

Nationwide, Floyd’s death has inspired outpouring of peaceful protests against systemic racism and killings of people of color by police. But there also have been violent clashes, punctuated by tear gas and fireworks, between riot police and demonstrators along with looting, vandalism, arson and journalists being attacked and arrested.

To quell the chaos, cities have imposed overnight curfews and governors have called up National Guard troops to patrol the streets.

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Locally, looters struck the Hemet Valley Mall and a strip mall in San Bernardino over the weekend. Six protesters were arrested during a Temecula protest Saturday. The weekend also saw peaceful demonstrations in Chino Hills and Moreno Valley.

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About 12:30 p.m. Monday, Riverside County declared a local emergency and imposed a countywide curfew from 6 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday, superseding a 7 p.m. curfew set Monday by the city of Riverside.

County officials said the curfew was “in response to several areas of rioting and looting in Southern California over the weekend, as well as planned protests set to occur today in Riverside County.”

Paul Munford, pastor of the New Joy Baptist Church in Riverside and president of the Riverside Clergy Association, a coalition of black pastors, served on a city steering committee after the 1998 shooting of 19-year-old Tyisha Miller by Riverside police. Miller’s death prompted protest marches and the state attorney general to order sweeping reforms at the Riverside Police Department.

Munford said in a Friday, May 29, interview that the violence by the public hurts those who are protesting violence by police against blacks.

“Rioting and looting is always unfortunate because it undercuts the validity of our message of justice and injustice. But yet at the same time, I am sure that there are people who riot who have no respect for the police because they’ve been taunted, abused, maybe even beaten up. So it’s a different element,” Munford said.

“Then, unfortunately, you have people who riot and burn down buildings,” he said. “They’re just irresponsible and disrespectful riff-raff and they get mixed with the crowd of law-abiding citizens who are protesting against injustice, and their voices get drowned. The majority of those that usually protest are not the ones doing the rioting and looting.”

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