It was a perfect example of people stepping up and doing the right thing.
After the conclusion of a peaceful march and rally on Tuesday evening, some opted to return to Sequoia Park where the Black Lives Matter event started.
For whatever reason part of the second gathering of around 200 people started milling in Wawona Street blocking traffic. Manteca Police asked people to get out of the roadway.
Several of the participants started showing aggression toward officers. At one point an unruly person attempted to open an officer’s door to a vehicle while another malcontent threw a bottle in the direction of officers.
It could have gone all so wrong in a matter of minutes.
Due to the fact there were 200 people in the park, police called for assistance. Roughly a dozen Manteca Police and San Joaquin County Sheriff units responded. Deputies had been on standby at the Civic Center in case they were needed. Stockton Police also responded.
Organizer Sharon Washington-Barnes returned to the park and was able to help keep the crowd calm. Eventually after an hour the crowd in the park started to disperse without incident.
During the last hour that Washington-Barnes was livestreaming on Facebook, people were hugging her and each other, thanking others, and leaving in good spirits.
There were no further altercations with police. There was no damage to property. There were no injuries. And there were no arrests.
Two would be instigators didn’t turn a good thing on its head because people kept theirs. That goes for the organizers, law enforcement, and other participants.
As such it was a prime example of what happens when people value the words they speak and put them to work.
Organizers — who have a stellar record of bringing the community together during dark moments in an attempt not just to shine light on needs and injustice but to keep nudging us toward a brighter future as a community — stayed true to their intent. Law enforcement, who worked closely with Washington-Barnes, to protect participants and to make sure their peaceful assembly wasn’t hijacked delivered as well.
Other participants refrained from getting sucked into acts of ugliness and stayed on the high road. They refused to let two sparks — completely uncharacteristic of what unfolded earlier — start a wild fire and burn the progress made by people working together to make sure people hear the voices of those that are unable any longer to speak for themselves.
By staying true to their heart and their hopes they have moved the cause of a community coming together to address injustices a bit closer to their goal.
Without a doubt there will be forces that will work to undo the good that happened Tuesday. Social media was ablaze that evening with all sorts of comments that were far from the truth.
There were indeed fireworks shot off but nowhere in the vicinity of Sequoia Park or the march. Instead it is the usual illegal fireworks fired off in Manteca this time of year that reaches the crescendo of a firefight in Kabul as the Fourth of July draws closer.
We need to step up to the plate and follow the examples of how 400 plus people conducted themselves including those that refused to be goaded into chaos. That means we must be willing to stop using social media to do what the two malcontents tried Tuesday to send us deeper into the pit instead of working for solutions. Whether it was anger or simply an anarchistic streak, two aggressive acts weren’t allowed to get momentum to undermine sincere efforts to make the world better for everyone regardless of race, color, or creed.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org