BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s been a common refrain during this year of protests: the other side is busing in trouble makers. Well, that may have happened in some cities around the U.S. this year, but most of the participants in last weekend’s protests seem to have been homegrown.
That doesn’t mean the organizers of the protests and counterprotests in Bakersfield Friday and Saturday knew everyone they were marching with.
The weekend protests got loud and — in at least one documented case — violent, but BPD was there in force to keep it from getting worse. Most of the crowd packed up and left Friday night at about 8 p.m. when the police declared an unlawful assembly and ordered them to disperse.
Two who didn’t were arrested: 31-year-old Gideon Allday, a former Kern County Sheriff’s deputy convicted in 2016 on domestic violence charges, and 37-year-old Jared Huag.
Huag, an art teacher at CSUB, said the gathering did not strike him as an unlawful assembly — so he stuck around.
“I’ve begun to think of the police response to the Black Lives Matter movement as what I’ve been thinking of as the criminalization of grief,” Huag said. “The long term effects of not only denying justice to the Black members of our community when they are killed at the hands of the police but denying, again, the ability to express grief and anger and sadness at that denial.”
BPD spokesman Sgt. Robert Pair said the intent of organizers on both sides might have been worthy, but people on the fringes hurt their intended message.
“I think that there’s people with messages that are important to them on both sides,” Pair said. “They’re capable of talking about those messages in a way that’s conducive to creating dialog. I think that there are also some folks that are involved for the wrong reasons and because maybe some of these groups aren’t super organized those individuals get involved and it kind of derails both groups’ messages.”
Lisa Kendrick, who created the Facebook group Giving Back to the Badge, said her group was just there to show support for law enforcement.
“The line is crossed when you start tagging our police department with ‘all cops are bastards,'” she said. “You know, ‘Police should die.’ Things like that.”
Lisa Marie, as she’s known on Facebook, said she and like-minded people stayed after the protests were over and cleaned up graffiti that had been sprayed on the side of BPD headquarters.
“That’s why we counter protest with cleaning everything up. Cleaning up their messes, you know, everything they destroy we put it back together,” she said.
There was, however, clearly some bad behavior on the part of the counter protestors, as Kendrick acknowledged.
“We don’t know who those people were,” she said. “They actually showed up and started violence and we actually were all posting in our groups about them, and trying to figure out who they were and where they came from. So they’re giving us a bad name when we have no idea who they are. The guy in the Jesus shirt yelling homophobic slurs — nobody knows who he is.”
It wasn’t just the counter-protesters. The following night police arrested two people whose sympathies were apparently with the Black Lives Matter group.
Xandia Beltran-Gomez, 28, was arrested — after a brief scuffle — on charges including vandalism and assaulting an on officer with a baseball bat — as well as possession of brass knuckles and a switchblade. No one was seriously hurt.
Black Lives Matter supporters were trying to organize a show of support for Beltran-Gomez at her Wednesday afternoon court hearing.
And David McMahon, 32, was arrested and charged with brandishing a firearm miles away from the protest on Hageman Road — but police say it might have been connected to the activity downtown because McMahon had BLM messaging on his van and the victims had been at a Trump rally.
KGET did reach out for comment to protest organizers Monday — but by Tuesday night still had not heard back.