What started as a peaceful protest in downtown Bakersfield took a violent turn Friday evening. Black Lives Matter activists gathered at 5:00 p.m. in front of the Bakersfield Police Department to protest for Breonna Taylor, the Kentucky woman who was killed while sleeping in her apartment during a police raid on her home. Demonstrators placed a prominent sign in front of the police station that read, “no justice, no sleep.” This comes just days after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that no one will face criminal charges for her death.
“The protesters were peaceful,” said Robert Pair, a Bakersfield Police Sergeant. “It appeared no issues and then as the night progressed, events unfolded which forced us to deem the event an unruly event. There’s a certain philosophy that once we show up as we saw it then polarizes both groups and it actually ramps up the issues. So once determined that we needed to get involved, that’s when we got involved.”
Officers reported fistfights breaking out after a group of counter protesters arrived at about 7:30. In less than a half hour, police received reports of multiple fistfights resulting in injuries. Officers arrived in nearly a dozen vehicles with full tactical gear, armed with weapons ranging from riot shields to assault rifles. Many wore bullet-proof vests. They formed a line on the intersection of H Street and Truxtun Avenue, pushing back droves of protesters and counter protesters.
Flashing blue lights painted the sky as officers spoke on an intercom, declaring the event an unlawful assembly. Action came swiftly as officers pushed past a barrier on the intersection of Truxtun Avenue and H Street, flanked by a large and armored vehicle. They moved in linear fashion, moving protesters out of the secured area in front of the police station. As conflict deescalated, officers removed the sign from the front of the station and called in multiple vehicles for backup.
The Bakersfield Police Department reports that several people were injured, but none provided statements. Officers made two arrests, citing two males for failing to disperse before later releasing them. No police officers used force throughout the protest.