Hundreds of protestors gathered in the heart of downtown Bakersfield on the evening of May 29, just days after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis and nationwide demonstrations began.
Photo by Ana Cornejo.

Red County Blue County: While policing in Kern is scrutinized, movements for change haven’t made inroads

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When footage of George Floyd’s killing sent a shockwave across the nation this spring, it touched cities big and small. In rural towns throughout the U.S., people took to the streets united by a single phrase: Black Lives Matter.

They rallied, denounced police brutality, and called for systemic changes. And in some cases, they raised their voices in places where locals were more accustomed to keeping quiet about racism.

Chants of “say her name” — referring to the police killing of Breonna Taylor  — resounded in large urban cities. But the rallying call could be heard outside the police headquarters, under the hot Central Valley sun in the streets of downtown Bakersfield. 

Lifelong Bakersfield resident Carrington Prichett was at a recent rally for racial justice in the heart of that city following a Kentucky grand jury’s decision not to charge the three police officers involved in shooting Taylor for her death.

Prichett says President Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and frequent dog whistles over the last four years have tacitly extended a pass for racism. It’s something the 22-year-old Black man says he perceives around Bakersfield, even when doing something as mundane as grocery shopping.

“I see a lot of MAGA hats and shirts, and when I – I just happen to glance at them they give me a look of hatred,” Prichett says. “So it’s definitely an emboldened—a silent racism, if you will.”

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