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Thousands March in Martinez at Black Lives Matter Rally

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- Between 1,500 and 2,000 people walked from the downtown Martinez courthouse to Martinez Waterfront Park in a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest Sunday afternoon.

The march took place in the wake of a series of local developments over the last several weeks related to national protests against police brutality.

Demonstrators Gather in Downtown Martinez Sunday for a Black Lives Matter Rally
Demonstrators gather in Martinez Sunday for a Black Lives Matter protest rally. (CBS)

Other than a minor skirmish when a man shouted, "All lives matter" and a handful of people waving signs before the march started, there were no incidents or disturbances.

The march started around 4 p.m. and took place in an orderly fashion, with protesters stopping a few times to chant as they walked the approximately half-mile distance.

Police said at least one person was treated for a heat-related issue.

Sunday's protest came eight days after a city-permitted BLM mural was painted on Court Street downtown.

The protest, which Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal said could draw thousands of people, was originally planned as a relatively small event.

The protest was planned by organizations including Richmond-based Together We stand in response to the June 28 discovery of "white power" flyers posted about on a residential street near downtown Martinez.

Similar flyers were discovered the same day in Antioch and Pittsburg.

Opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement in Martinez have been bold. The paint on the street mural literally hadn't dried when a woman took a roller and black paint to deface it.

The woman began painting over the mural in the presence of several Black Lives Matter supporters, saying Black Lives Matter "is not happening in my town." She was accompanied by a man who shouted statements including that racism is a "leftist lie."

Video of the pair went viral. Both now face misdemeanor hate crime and vandalism charges.

The next evening, a 30-year-old Martinez man was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a loaded revolver during an argument with a supporter of the mural. And, on Tuesday, someone painted "White Lives matter" across Howe Road in Martinez. (The words were soon covered up.) Chief Sappal asked the organizers to postpone the event but they refused, saying a delay would be tantamount to silencing voices against racism.

Two other groups, the Southern Alameda County Resistance Network and the local group Martizians for Black Lives, also planned to participate in Sunday's protest.

In a letter to the Martinez community on Saturday, Sappal said he arranged for mutual aid from "every (law enforcement) agency in Contra Costa County" to be ready to help Martinez officers should there be any violence from protesters or counter-protesters.

Organizers said this past week that they implored those coming to the protest not to engage counter-protesters and to remain peaceful.

Many downtown businesses, wary of what could happen, boarded up their businesses downtown on Thursday and Friday.

The Martinez Farmers' Market, at the suggestion of Chief Sappal, decided not to open its usual midday Sunday market along Main Street, saying the market will be back July 19.

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