About 30 people gathered at the intersection of San Benito and Fourth streets in Hollister on June 5 to protest police brutality and show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest was in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death has sparked demonstrations in communities across the country, some of which have resulted in clashes with police and rioting.
Organizer Elia Salinas said the protest was by invitation only to ensure that no one from outside the county would show up.
“It was important for us as a community to voice our concerns and worries about what’s going on,” Salinas said.
Attendees included San Benito County Supervisor Anthony Botelho, Hollister interim Police Chief Carlos Reynoso, Capt. Eric Taylor from the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, Hollister School District Trustee Robert Bernosky and District 2 supervisor candidate Wayne Norton.
After 30 minutes a group of younger residents joined, holding up their own signs in support of Black Lives Matter and calling for police reform. Salinas said they had not been invited.
Protesters started on the sidewalk and later extended into the closed portion of San Benito Street, waving their signs as motorists honked in support. As outdoor diners began to leave the area, Reynoso asked the protesters to stand behind the barricade in case someone tried to hurt them, as has been reported in other cities. He also directed them to call 9-1-1 if they experienced harassment from passing members of the public.
Max Beltran, 27, joined the protest because he said he knew what it felt like to be in front of a cocked shotgun held by a police officer. Two years ago when he lived in Salinas, he said he was pulled over shortly after leaving his house and figured he was going to get a ticket, though he didn’t know why.
“Before I knew it, seven cop cars were all around me and they had me at gunpoint,” Beltran said. He said he was then ordered to get on his knees and walk backwards before being handcuffed. He said it turned out the cops had stopped him because he looked like a suspect they were searching for.
“One false move and I would have died. I would have been the wrong guy,” Beltran said.
Mari Martin said she took part in the Friday protest because it’s important to bring visibility to the issue of police brutality.
“We just need to get the message out and show our country and people in charge that we aren’t going to stand for it anymore and it needs to change,” Martin said.
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