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Black Lives Matter event at Manteca’s Sequoia Park

They’re gathering together to “say his name.”

Tonight, at 6:30 p.m. at Sequoia Park, a local Black Lives Matter solidarity demonstration is being held in honor of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed last week in an encounter with police while handcuffed, and to bring the community together to stand up against injustices wherever they may be taking place.

The event’s organizer, Sharon Washington-Barnes, says that the event is intended to bring the community together at a time when people can use it most. While there has been concern on social media about the event potentially spurring violent demonstrations like those taking place across the country in major metropolitan areas, the organizers of the event are striving for unification rather than division.

“I really want people to know that there is no need to panic – I grew up in Manteca, went to Manteca and played basketball and led the team to a VOL championship – because this is not a case of ‘we’re angry and we want to cause issues,’” Washington-Barnes said. “We want Manteca to be an example of what a town fully unified can be – politicians, the working class, the people, the police, all standing in solidarity against the pain and injustice that is going on.

“We want to set an example, lead with love, and stay true to the true intention which is creating change and not necessarily making noise. Especially since there are protests that are going on in neighboring areas, we want to this to be a true unification and a fight against injustice.”

And Washington-Barnes – who has held two other events similar to this one in Manteca over the past five years that went off without incident and was out for an impromptu rally holding up signs to bring attention to George Floyd and injustices across the country – has the support of the Manteca Police Department.

According to Manteca Police Lieutenant Stephen Schluer, Washington-Barnes has been working with the department to ensure that everything goes smoothly – communicating directly with Community Engagement Sergeant Joe Ahuna – just as they have in the past.

Schluer said that the entire Manteca Police Department command staff will be present at the request of the organizers and will be attending as an extension of the solidarity that the event hopes to promote.

While residents, some loudly, have voiced their concerns about the event after clashes with police and looting incidents have been reported in neighboring cities like Stockton and Modesto – and some businesses have gone so far as to board up their windows – Schluer said that the mission of the Manteca Police Department includes working with members of the community rather than reacting to the members of the community. While working law enforcement will monitor the situation, Schluer said that he does anticipate there being any issues just as there weren’t in the other events that Washington-Barnes has organized.

“These types of instances can be avoided just by working with the community members – working with them, and not working against them,” Schluer said. “Granted, there is always the potential for some type of civil unrest and if we can’t quell it before it happens, we are trained to deal with it.

“But prior to something like civil unrest happening, we have to have that relationship with the community.”

While the exact plans for the event are being kept between the organizers and the police – Washington-Barnes said that people have made threats since the event was announced – it is scheduled to wrap up within a few hours and is supposed to have representation from the Manteca City Council as well as other civic leaders.

Sequoia Park is located along Wawona Avenue between Ebbetts and Sonora Avenues.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.