PALMDALE — Between 200 and 300 protesters took to the streets Sunday afternoon, in a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
The march started at Marie Kerr Park and headed eastbound on Rancho Vista Boulevard (Avenue P). The group ended up at Rancho Vista Boulevard and 10th Street West, near the Antelope Valley Mall.
The diverse group held signs with things such as, “Stop the killing,” “Black lives matter,” “Legalize being black” and “I’m an unarmed black woman, how am I still a threat,” written on them.
The protesters were diverse in that they seemed to vary in age and ethnicity, but they all came together for a single cause: To shed light on the injustices that black people have endured and continue to endure and to protest the killing of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, earlier this week.
Kathryn Barger, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon, lasting from 6 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. today. Traveling to and from work, seeking or giving emergency care, credentialed media, and the homeless who were sheltering in place were exempt.
Unlike the protests and riots in Los Angeles, this gathering was non-violent. The group marched from Rancho Vista Boulevard, up to 10th Street West, toward the 14 Freeway exit, then onward, to the northbound 14 Freeway onramp and back toward the intersection of Rancho Vista and 10th Street West.
Around 1:30 p.m., a notice was posted on the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station Facebook page, alerting followers that 75 to 100 protesters were on 10th Street West and Rancho Vista Boulevard, blocking lanes and attacking vehicles.
Though the lanes were blocked as the group marched, no vehicles were seen being attacked and there were no vehicles with any visible damage, nor police activity, indicating that there had been an incident of that sort.
Two deputies from the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station stood in the parking lot between Arby’s and Carl’s Jr., watching the crowd, to make sure they continued their peaceful protest on the street below.
Anouk Harvey approached Deputy Hilzendeger and asked why the freeway on and offramps were closed.
“It’s to let everyone be on the surface streets,” he said.
The California Highway Patrol blocked the freeway offramp and onramp in an effort to keep them on the surface streets and not let them get on the freeway, where they could cause a disruption in the traffic flow, as was seen on the 101 Freeway earlier this week in Los Angeles.
Phenam is just one of the young men that turned out for the gathering. Originally from New Jersey, he moved to Palmdale in 2017, to chase his dream of being a musician.
“The world is in distress and I want to be part of the solution,” he said when asked why he was out there Sunday afternoon. “I’m trying to understand and I came to be part of this peaceful protest.”
Ramona Harvey and her family also joined the protest. She said her daughter wanted to join, so the whole family went.
Harvey said she joined the protest because “it’s not OK to murder someone.”
“This is an extremely painful and hurtful time,” she said.
As a group of young protesters gathered on the sidewalk on 10th Street West near the freeway offramp, a young black man drove by and began yelling obscenities at the crowd.
One protester, Vincent, 21, of Lancaster, told the other protesters exchanging words with the young man to quit engaging with him.
“If they start saying stuff, don’t engage,” said Vincent, who declined to give his last name. “That’s what they want.”
Sahfin, 19, another Antelope Valley resident, who also didn’t give his last name, said he was protesting because it raises awareness and it’s a good way for people to see what’s going on. He said he didn’t believe it was a white cop/black person problem, but more of an issue with police being given more free reign and that became an excuse for cops to exercise that abuse of power.
Lancaster resident Lynde Williams said this is the fourth Black Lives Matter protest that she’s been a part of — the first one was when Treyvon Martin was killed.
She talked at length about the history of black people being demonized by a system that has never treated them equally.
“As we push back, nobody wants to hear it,” she said.
Antelope Valley resident Gerald agreed with Williams.
“The system teaches hate and a negative attitude toward black people,” he said. “When it comes to us, we have to live our lives in fear. You don’t have to go down the street and worry about minding your own business. We have to walk down the street with our hands up and they’ll find an issue. No matter what we do, we’re still a threat.”
Despite causing traffic issues because they were walking in the lanes on 10th Street West, there appeared to be no other problems. However, that didn’t stop Walmart and Sam’s Club from taking preventative measures. According to a post on Facebook, Walmart was evacuating and closing and Sam’s Club was also closing due to protesters.
Deputy Gutierrez said there had been no issues and that he and Hilzendeger were out there to “be sure everything stays calm.”
Protesters gathered at the corner of 10th Street West and Rancho Vista Boulevard earlier this month to protest the stay at home orders issued because of COVID-19. Several protesters on Sunday wore face coverings and could be seen bumping elbows in lieu of shaking hands.