On Monday, June 1st a social media post of a screenshot of text stating plans for a destructive riot to be held in Fresno’s Riverpark Shopping Center on June 2nd began circulating. According to the post, those who wanted to “support” Black Lives Matter were to show up, meet at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at 4pm and be prepared to destroy property.
This was utterly dismaying after over 3,000 people participated in a peaceful three-hour protest the day before in Downtown Fresno, led by the Fresno State NAACP. (Watch video from the event here.)
Very shortly after the “Riot” invite began circulating, Fresno State NAACP President and co-organizer of the previous protest D’Aungillique Jackson took to social media imploring people NOT to participate in the event, and made it very clear that it was not associated with the Black Lives Matter movement of the Fresno State NAACP. Her words were reinforced by local social activist and community leader Chris Milton in a video he streamed directly to Facebook. Around the same time, the Fresno Police Department also began sharing news of the planned riot and their plans to protect businesses and public safety.
Late Monday evening, many businesses with large window displays began to board up their buildings as a preventative measure in case the threats of the riot were founded. Stores like Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s were covered by plywood around their entire exterior. Additionally, large retailers like Target and Best Buy adjusted their business plans for the day and closed early as a safety measure and to protect their team members.
By 3:30pm a number of law enforcement officers and vehicles had congregated in the parking lot directly west of REI and Ruth’s Chris restaurant. They were met by what appeared to be around 100 community members including leaders from the NAACP, well-known community and church leader DJ Criner, and Fresno-raised NBA Veteran Quincy Pondexter. As I watched streaming footage as the 4pm hour approached and went on with no sign of a riot taking place, I found myself deeply heartened by the sigh of the officers and community members smiling, shaking hands with one another and standing together to ensure peace in our city.
Acting Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall addressed the crowd briefly and stated it was his belief that the “riot” was an attempt to divide the community, by someone that was definitely not a part of either the NAACP or Black Lives Matter. “I believe it was somebody that wanted to create tension in our community, and what we saw was just the opposite, it brought people together.”
On the heels of two successful community gatherings, or moreover one very successful gathering and one potential disaster turned successful gathering, you may be wondering what’s next for Fresno in regards to anti-racism, police policy and how to stay informed on local issues.
- You can follow the Fresno State NAACP on Facebook here to stay informed and up to date on future events.
- You can view the list of the demands made during the protest in relation to local law enforcement and policy here.
- You can follow updates from the City of Fresno Police Department here.
- Local members of the police department, city leaders and pastors from churches across town have been gathering to work together toward peace, justice, and protection. You can view CBS 47 and KSEE 24’s story on this here.
And, because we’re FresYes and you know we love local business AND food and bet you do, too – we’d like to turn your attention to this awesome list of great Black-owned local businesses that you can support and enjoy delicious food from in Fresno. (Adapted from a list originally compiled by Phil and Riki Skei and Fresno Street Eats)
Hot Dog on a Stick (in Fashion Fair Mall)
Barb’s Soul Food (Food Truck)
Fasika (Ethiopian & Kenyan Cuisine)
Yellow Mug Café (Coffee Shop)
E’s Soul Food (Food Truck)
Triumph (African Cuisine)