The Fresno Coalition Against Police Brutality has been protesting in Fresno streets for three weeks in solidarity with nationwide protests calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. The latest protest, on Dec. 27, started at Blackstone and Nees Avenues in the heart of Fresno’s busiest shopping center. Around 60 protestors, many of them their first time joining the coalition in a street demonstration, rallied at the busy intersection before 30-40 of those participants marched south on Blackstone towards Herndon, peacefully expressing themselves while being escorted by police.
After turning right on Herndon, protestors walked through the previously unincorporated and marginalized neighborhood of Pinedale (once the site of “Camp Pinedale”, a temporary internment camp for Californians of Japanese descent during WWII), then stopped briefly at the Mexican Consulate on Ingram St. to honor the victims of the recent state sanctioned murder of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico. They marched back to Blackstone Ave. where North & South bound traffic was brought to a standstill, but not by the protestors.
The Fresno Police Department had all traffic on Blackstone Ave. blocked, and didn’t end the blockade until 15-20 minutes after the protest was over and people were on their way home. Many people were under the impression that Fresno Police were doing the right thing by approaching the recent marches as First Amendment assemblies, even going so far to accommodate the demonstrations by controlling traffic like they would for any other parade. One protest participant on Dec. 20th even mentioned that F.P.D. was “working for the people”.
Never were protestors ordered to disperse; never once were any of the protests declared an unlawful assembly. However, in a broadcast by KMPH on Dec. 31, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer explained a plan to “crackdown on protestors”:
For weeks, protestors have declared the streets of Fresno theirs, carrying signs denouncing police brutality while joining their voices with protestors across the country following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
But the most recent protest, on Saturday, caused the biggest disruption to date.
Protestors blocked Blackstone Avenue, near the River Park Shopping Center, chanting, “Killer cops, off our streets!”
“Our officers have been extremely patient with these individuals,” says Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.
“A protestor will get in the face of the officer, a captain, telling him they hate him all while on video, and our officers are expected to take that.”
Dyer says he supports freedom of speech and the right to protest, but the most recent protest is an example of people breaking the law.
His patience, and the patience of many, is now wearing thin.
“When that spills over into the public right of way, a street or a sidewalk that is blocked, then it requires our enforcement efforts,” he says.
“Citizens have an expectation of us to enforce the laws, equally. And we’re going to do that.”
This week, Chief Dyer and the City Attorney’s Office created a plan of action that, they hope, will keep future protests peaceful — and limit disruptions to the general public.
It starts with reviewing social media posts and police video of previous protests, to identify the organizers.
They will receive warning letters from the City of Fresno.
“What has happened has happened. I’m not going to pursue criminal charges for the past, but in the future, we will,” he says.
“We will be seeking out a warrant for those individuals that are in violation of a misdemeanor obstructing a roadway.”
Those arrested, wouldn’t experience a revolving door at the Fresno County Jail either.
Bench warrants would be signed by a judge, meaning those arrested would be kept in custody.
The police department will also seek restitution for money spent to send officers to control traffic.
In Saturday’s incident, the city spent around $6,000.
“The citizens of Fresno should not have to pay for police officers to be present to block off those roadways and take those police officers away from their neighborhoods,” Dyer says.
He adds that if people really want to protests in the streets, they can go about it the legal way: obtain a parade permit.
As someone who proudly declared himself “God’s Minister of Justice” at the 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Downtown Fresno, these threats mimic the very behavior of police agencies that threatened, harassed, extorted and jailed civil rights activists in the 60’s and 70’s. Chief Dyer’s “crackdown” and outspoken advocacy for spying on peaceful activists since the Mike Brown grand jury decision, only further displays the need to protest the city’s repressive policing.
The Fresno Coalition Against Police Brutality is hosting an open forum and seminar on Jan. 10th: HOW TO FILM THE REVOLUTION: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND TAKE THEM BACK!
Jan. 19th: The coalition is asking supporters to join them at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade in downtown Fresno. Supporters are encouraged to advance the Black Lives Matter narrative and voice opposition to the city’s coercive measures to stifle peaceful protests.
Join the Fresno People’s Media Group for updates on future events.