On Monday, roughly 50 protesters, some of them smiling broadly as they stood in the middle of the street blocking traffic in downtown Fresno, shouted “Fresno is Ferguson!” and “Black lives matter!” to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Fresno Bee reported that drivers at the intersection of Tulare Street at O Street had to avoid hitting protesters as the vehicles slowly crept forward with protesters blocking their way. Some angry drivers honked their horns and yelled back at the protesters.
One demonstrator, Stephanie Kamey, shouted through a bullhorn, “We’ll be leading you guys into the streets today and we’re gonna shut this…down.”
The demonstrators started their antics in front of the Robert E. Coyle Federal Building. In addition to invoking Brown’s death, they also used the recent suicide of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail, after her arrest during a traffic stop, to buttress their claims of racism.
Rhea Martin of Black Lives Matter in Fresno intoned, “We want to call attention to the fact that systematically and historically, black lives have been desecrated and taken as a part of white supremacy in all of its forms.” She told ABC30, “They are happening in every large city where there are high populations of black and brown folks. We are Ferguson; we are Baltimore…Fresno. The systematic oppression of black and brown folks is nationwide.”
JePahl White of Faith in Community echoed, “Our lives are in jeopardy. Our lives are in danger. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters (around the country) and we want to be inside our federal institutions making policy changes.” White tweeted in June:
— JePahl White (@JePahl_White) June 6, 2015
The demonstrators issued their list of demands, including demilitarizing local law enforcement nationwide, drawing from law enforcement funds for alternatives to jail time, and calling a congressional hearing to investigate the “criminalization of communities of color, racial profiling, police abuses and torture by law enforcement.”
Police Capt. Andy Hall said the organizations leading the demonstration had received letters from the police warning that they would be issued citations ranging from $100 to $700 if they blocked traffic. He added that officers taped the demonstration and the demonstrators’ leaders would receive citations for jaywalking and not using crosswalks.