More than 100 people gathered in scorching hot temperatures on Tuesday to stand against a potential riot at the River Park shopping center in north Fresno. This group, which included Fresno police officers and community activists, was responding to a social media post that attempted to incite violence under the name of Black Lives Matter.
The post gained attention on Monday, a day after more than 3,000 people turned out to a peaceful protest organized by the Fresno State NAACP in downtown Fresno. When NAACP chapter members caught wind of the post, they quickly worked to denounce it.
The Fresno Police Department is still investigating the case but Chief of Police Andy Hall said in a press conference on Tuesday that he believes the post came from right-wing “agitators.”
“It’s upsetting that people would try to use something peaceful and turn it into something destructive,” said Chris Milton, a community activist who participated in Sunday’s protest downtown. “We’re here to protect the legacy of the Black Lives Movement, the police are here to protect the property.”
Around 4 p.m., when the riot was “scheduled” to begin, the shopping center drew a much larger crowd. Cars drove by slowly as people peered through their windows.
Emmanuel Toah, who lives near the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, brought his two boys to teach them what a peaceful protest looks like. Other community members filtered in and out of the large gathering to show their support for the movement and stand against the violence.
Organizers distributed water bottles to prevent dehydration and others shared hand sanitizer. An hour later, community activists thanked the community for showing up and ended the stance against violence with a prayer.