All photos taken in Upland by MIchelle Menes.
After nearly a week of violent protests over the death of George Floyd, Los Angeles, the county and nearby cities began instituting curfews each night. The border city of Upland in San Bernardino County went even further. On the evening of June 1, it instituted a nightly curfew for the entire week. It seemed an extreme reaction to events more than 35 miles away when LA itself was making curfew decisions night by night. What was happening?
On that Monday, Breanna Peterson was driving home to Upland when her father alerted her that a crowd was gathering on Foothill and Euclid. She made a split second decision, stopped at the nearest CVS pharmacy for markers and blank posters to make at home before she headed out to the protest. Nearly 200 people lined the intersection but it was a peaceful if noisy gathering. They had been listening to speakers when counter protesters arrived and began heckling.
In the silence of an eight minute period to memorialize the time it took for Floyd to die, she heard one of them say, “When are you f—–s gonna start looting and burning s–t?”
The counter protesters grew increasingly aggressive and a commotion broke out as they crossed the street, trying to provoke a fight.
“The police were less than a block away and they did nothing. I also heard from other people that they were calling us homophobic slurs,” she said. The protest group pulled back, refusing to engage. Peterson left soon after.
A liberal studies major, Peterson will attend CSU Monterey Bay to finish but she has been attending protests since she was 15. She says, “It’s my duty to fight racism and put my body on the line to defend my brothers and sisters.” She has been alarmed by the increasing racism and aggression she observes in Upland. “I knew that my voice had to be heard.”
The protest remained generally calm until the 6 pm curfew when some bottle and rock throwing ensued. Earlier, a counter protester brandished an assault weapon for a brief moment, but then placed it back in his truck and drove away. He was later arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. No one else was arrested. The crowd was dispersed by 7 pm.
Upland is in the part of the Inland Empire that is on the border of LA and San Bernardino counties, along with Claremont. It marks the end of greater Los Angeles and the beginning of the IE, with a population density much smaller than LA. In Upland, one can sense the tension and racial disharmony, although African Americans make up less than 6% of the population. (The majority of the population in Upland is divided almost equally between White and Hispanic people.)
Other cities in this corner of the southland also hosted protest marches that proceeded without the heckling counter protesters. Next door, in Claremont, 100 people demonstrated on Indian Hill Boulevard and Foothill, then marched south to Memorial Park. The event was organized by Claremont Disarm Hate which was formed by Claremont High School students.. And in Pomona, high schoolers also helped organize a demonstration some 200 strong who gathered at Garey and Foothill, and then began the long march, some by foot and some by car, to Pomona’s city hall. Cars honked, people along the way raised their fists in support, mayor Tim Sandoval marched with them. As in Claremont, the event was peaceful. Further east, in Rancho Cucamonga and in Riverside, marches were peaceful. By Wednesday, the sleepy town of La Verne fielded a crowd of more than 800 who marched with mayor Tim Hepburn in the 90 degree heat to a rally near the University of La Verne. As in Claremont and Pomona, the organizers included high school students stepping up.
Not all protest demonstrations were without serious problems. There were six arrests in Temecula, looting in Hemet, and in Fontana, nine people were arrested after a protest broke down into rocks thrown at businesses. But in many of these cities, subsequent demonstrations were peacefully carried out.
Protests will continue through the week, with many towns fielding more than one event at different locales. More than 35 miles away from LA, the IE continues to demonstrate the same passion and commitment to change but in it’s own way. Upland’ s curfew was revised to 9pm to 6am and will continue until June 8. Other cities in San Bernardino County instituted curfews “until further notice.” They include San Bernardino, Fontana, Rialto, Highland and Grand Terrace. On the evening of June 4, Los Angeles cancelled all curfews in light of peaceful demonstrations on the two previous nights.