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Locals express concern over vehicle and pedestrian safety amid protests

Posted at 6:59 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 22:54:27-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — We’ve seen multiples examples of protesters having dangerous encounters with vehicles in Downtown Bakersfield. On Wednesday night, a pedestrian was hit by a car on California Avenue, and that man remains in critical condition as of Thursday night.

23ABC spoke with Pastor Angelo Frazier of Riverlakes Community Church, who's been involved with the gatherings, and he says there have been situations that have developed during and after these marches that become a hazard for the public, those protesting and those driving in the area.

“That’s not peaceful protesting, interfering with traffic is dangerous and deadly," he said.

The Bakersfield Police Department says the driver involved in the California Avenue incident was taken in but found not to be impaired, and they don't believe speed was a factor in the case.

“At this point, they’ve determined that the primary collision factor was a pedestrian in the roadway outside of a crosswalk," said Sergeant Nathan McCauley, a spokesman for the department.

But some of the marches are not only potentially endangering protesters, but those driving in the area too. Mallorie Matteson was with her family shopping on Wednesday, when she had an asthma attack.

“So I need to get to the hospital and get a steroid shot," she said.

She says as they started on their way to a doctor, they were stopped by a group of protestors walking along 23rd Street. The driver, Kayla Heitzenroder, honked and revved her engine, wanting the protesters to move, which attracted negative attention.

“There are four spots on the passenger side of my car where they kicked it. There are scratches on my hood. It looks like they took a key or something to my bumper," Heitzenroder said.

Heitzenroder eventually made her way past the crowd, going directly to urgent care. She provided 23abc with a doctor’s note.

23ABC asked police about the possibility of officers blocking traffic in order to make the protests safer.

“This is contingent on people not turning on the police cars that are trying to keep traffic at bay and trying to keep things safe," McCauley said.

BPD says that proper permits for marching are not being given because of COVID-19.

“However if people do want to coordinate a set route or do want to have something arranged, I would encourage them to contact the police department so we can see what arrangements they make," McCauley said.

Mccauley says another potential problem with shutting down roads, is shutting down access to business. He does say that undercover officers are always in the area amid these events.