Sharon Washington-Barnes made her intentions clear at Tuesday’s Black Lives Matter demonstration in Manteca.
“We need to be unified. We need to set the example,” she said at the gathering that kicked off at Sequoia Park.
Washington-Barnes, a standout basketball player at Manteca High – she played college hoops at Chico State and Stanislaus State – is an educator in Oakland, where she works and lives.
But Manteca is still near and dear to her.
“This was my school (nearby Sequoia Elementary School), my family is here, and there’s my car,” she said in an effort to maintain peaceful protest amid the widespread violence that occurred in dozen of U.S. cities following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.
Washington-Barnes, who is the organizer for the local BLM – she’s conducted several such protests over the years throughout the area including a few in her old hometown – worked with the Manteca Police Department in an effort to make sure everything went accordingly.
In turn, the BLM event had the support of not just police but city and school officials along with the various religious groups and the various nationalities in support of the cause, coming together as one.
“She did a great job,” said Lachysha Holloway, who is a teacher at East Union High.
Her husband, Jarvis Holloway, also works for Manteca Unified. He’s an instructor at Lathrop High.
Together, they brought their two boys, Jaden and Jarren, to be part of the peaceful event that went from Sequoia Park – about 400 in all, or nearly twice the estimated amount given earlier by Washington-Barnes – along Wawona Street, going a few blocks west to Union Road, and then traveling north to just outside the Manteca Park Golf Course.
Along the way, the large group of demonstrators shouted as one the following: “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe” (the very words Floyd uttered during his arrest while a police officer pressed a knee on his neck), and “George Floyd.”
“It was murder. And three officers stood by and didn’t do anything,” Police Lieutenant Stephen Schluer said prior to the march.
He was joined by Mayor Ben Cantu, Vice Mayor Jose Nuño and Councilman Gary Singh. Councilwoman Debby Moorhead was unable to attend due to a health issue. Councilman Dave Breitenbucher had a prior church commitment.
“Black lives do matter,” said Singh. “We need to set the example for all to see (with our demonstration) – we’re all in this together.”
Washington-Barnes established the rules early on.
“The police officers are not here to antagonize but to protect us – do not panic,” she said.
She urged the protesters to stay as much together as possible on the march along the city streets and, more importantly, maintain composure.
“We may be heckled. We need to rise above it all and show love at all times,” said Washington-Barnes, who waited until the last minute to disclose the route of the march.
Pastor Frank Saldana of Inner City Action was impressed with the solidarity provided from the large gathering.
“It’s great to see the city come together in agreement,” he said.
The key to the event, according to Washington-Barnes: Organize, unionize and strategize.
“We’re here to create a change,” she said.