Bash Mobs in San Bernardino
By Alex Distefano
Over a week ago, when a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilt of murder in the shooting death unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Feb., 2012, major cities around the country staged protests against the injustice. Unfortunately, some of these protests turned into something criminal in nature, and involved vandalism, theft and violence against police and ordinary citizens.
As anger levels rose in the immediate days after the verdict, angry groups of rioters, or so called ‘bash mobs,’ took the streets in Southern California, including areas of Long Beach and Hollywood. These groups of 25 to sometimes 50 or more people harassed, assaulted and/or robbed people on the streets, broke windows and threw rocks and bottles at civilians as well as police.
The Inland Empire unfortunately also saw such an incident in San Bernardino, the evening of July 18, when, according to San Bernardino Police Lt. Paul Williams, a peaceful protest ended when a group of around 50 people decided to begin committing crimes. “The action occurred at the intersection of Waterman and Baseline, near the Walgreens parking lot,” Williams told the Weekly. “It was no longer a protest, it was a civil unrest.” Williams said that the initial group of 100 people shrank down to around 50 people after cops ordered them to clear the area.
But unfortunately, not everyone decided to leave. “The remaining 50 or so people left, began to throw rocks and bottles at the police,” Williams said. “During that time, we ended up making 11 arrests, with charges varying from unlawful assembly to assault with a deadly weapon, to battery on a police horse and officer, vandalism to a police car and one arrest for assault toward another person within the crowd.” Williams said that the reports are still being processed with the county District Attorney’s office.
Williams said that luckily this time; things weren’t as bad as they could have been. “A police car was damaged somewhat with rocks and bottles, but thankfully there was no major damage to businesses,” he said. “No major injuries were reported other than one person who got beat up but he was also involved in the unrest as well.”
With similar incidents having occurred in Southern California and across the country nation after the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman, Williams said it is hard to tell if this “bash mob” was connected to a legitimate protest, or an unruly group of opportunist thugs looking for an excuse to commit random criminal acts. “The initial peaceful protest earlier, might have been connected to the Zimmerman verdict, but what happened after was not. It was clearly there for a purpose but had no message other than violence and destruction.”
Williams said that the idea of a bash mob is something new. But, the police department is full of trained professionals, aside from the semantics. The whole term, “Bash Mob” is an entirely new term given by the media. “We want the public to know, we have dealt with civil unrest before in San Bernardino. We are prepared. Many years ago, there were riots at a concert at the fairgrounds. This is nothing new to us, and we all train for this type of thing.”
If you ever happen to be caught in the middle of a bash mob or other type of riot, Williams said; first, do not panic, but quickly get away from the area as soon as you can. “People should use common sense,” he said. “If you see it get as far away from it as you can; don’t stop to watch, don’t drive through. The mob mentality takes place in those types of scenarios. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.”
All in all, Williams said that he is proud of the San Bernardino police for their efforts that night near the Walgreens parking lot. “We received multiple calls from the public that night,” he said. “Our officers showed great restraint, and there were very few major injuries as a result of this. I feel strong that we made it clear and the public supports us; this type of behavior will not be tolerated in our city.”