MARTINEZ, Calif. >> Anti-racism protesters took to the streets today in a San Francisco Bay Area city where two people were charged with hate crimes after allegedly defacing a city-sanctioned “Black Lives Matter” mural.
The two were charged July 7, the same day that police in Martinez were called to investigate after someone painted “White Lives Matter” on a city street.
Activists organized today’s march after police found flyers threatening Black Lives Matter supporters in the name of a white-power group, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“A lot of us are here today to say that we will not stand for hate in this city,” demonstrator Kirsten Watson said. The educator and a few hundred fellow marchers wore masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
People carried signs saying “Black Lives Matter” and “Know Justice, Know Peace.”
Fearing violence, police asked the protesters and counter-protesters to postpone, but both sides declined, the newspaper said.
Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal said he learned that counter-protesters may come with the intention of “protecting the community from protesters or protecting the police officers working the event.” He urged people not to come to the city armed.
“Bringing a weapon of any kind to a peaceful protest or illegally carrying a weapon into our community could serve as a flashpoint for an escalation of events,” Sappal said in a statement.
“Tensions are high — people are just on edge,” Che Travers told the Chronicle. She hung “Martizians for Black Lives” signs on the door of the art shop she owns down the street from the Black Lives Matter mural.
Police are investigating the “White Lives Matter” graffiti. Detectives were searching for witnesses and video surveillance, officials said.
Meanwhile, the district attorney’s office announced it had filed three misdemeanors, including a hate crime charge over the alleged defacement of the “Black Lives Matter” mural on the Fourth of July. Nicole Anderson, 42, and David Nelson, 53, are both white and live in Martinez. It wasn’t known if they have attorneys.
A viral video showed the woman, identified as Anderson, dumping a bucket of black paint and rolling over the mural’s freshly painted yellow block letters. A man, identified as Nelson, says on camera that racism is “a lie” and that “all lives matter.”
Martinez is a city of about 38,000 people 30 miles northeast of San Francisco.