McALLEN — The protesters came in waves here Friday afternoon, marching from Archer Park and the northside of downtown to the parking lot in front of city hall where they chanted and waved banners supporting Black Lives Matter and speaking out against police brutality.
The march was the latest in a string of Rio Grande Valley protests that have joined demonstrations opposing racism and the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25.
The demonstration was peaceful, with the exception of an individual who accosted marchers with a chainsaw while hurling slurs and insults. That man has since been taken into police custody, according to McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez.
McAllen resident Melanie Guajardo, one of Friday’s protesters, said ultimately she attended the march to support equality.
“I’m just here to stand in solidarity with everybody in our nation, to fight for equality. It’s something that I feel very strongly about because I’ve been seeing all the videos, all the news going on right now,” she said. “It’s been weighing really heavy on my heart. It’s hard talking about it.”
Talking about those videos and the news made Guajardo choke up.
“I think of all the children growing up in fear because of the inequality in our world and it breaks my heart,” she said.
Roberto Alvarado, of McAllen, also attended the demonstration as a show of solidarity.
“I’m protesting so that people will be aware of the racism going on, also the police brutality and the oppression of working poor people. So the people, the world, the United States can be aware of all of this that’s going on,” he said.
“It’s important because you have to make people aware of racism. Somebody’s got to put a stop to this and make people aware that we should treat everybody the same. Black, brown, white, whatever ethnic background you are, people have to realize that things need to change. We can’t be living under these conditions anymore,” Alvarado said.
The 69-year-old veteran, who waved an American flag during the demonstration, said he drew hope from Friday’s display.
“This is a young generation, there’s a lot of young people here,” he said. “That’s good, because they’re growing up knowing what’s going on … Hopefully things will be better with the next generation. That’s all we can hope.”
Not everyone in front of city hall Friday was part of the protest. Roel Delgado, of McAllen, and a friend stood by their motorcycles in front of city hall and refrained from chanting.
“I have nothing against the protest, nothing,” Delgado said. “I’m just here to make sure it stays peaceful.”
Rumors of bricks being placed in the alleys and protesters coming in from out of town prompted Delgado to come downtown Friday, because — in his view — police officers’ hands were tied when it came to property damage and violence related to protests.
Delgado said he and his friend searched for nefariously placed bricks before the protest.
“Protesting is one thing; destroying property is another,” he said. “That’s where I draw the line.”
Delgado said he didn’t necessarily disagree with the protesters’ views.
“It’s very unfortunate. The cops deserve to be arrested and charged,” he said.
When asked what he would do if the protest did get violent, Delgado responded, “let’s hope it doesn’t.”