Waving the flag of South Vietnam and chanting through bullhorns, hundreds of protesters gathered Thursday outside City Hall in Riverside, demanding that the city renounce its newly inked partnership with a city in Vietnam.
Many of the protesters arrived in a fleet of rented buses from Little Saigon in Orange County, where deep animosity remains toward the communist government that controls their now-united homeland.
"VC go home," protesters chanted, a reference to the Viet Cong forces that fought the U.S. and South Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War. Others carried signs reading "No Relationship with Dictatorship."
The Riverside City Council voted in favor of entering a sister city relationship with Can Tho in March, but activists weren't aware of it until officials from the picturesque city in the Mekong River Delta flew to California to formalize the partnership this month. Photos of the ceremony appeared in local newspapers.
The group last year successfully persuaded Irvine to sever a similar relationship with a city in Vietnam.
At least four of the Riverside protesters entered City Hall on Thursday in an attempt to meet with the mayor. They said later that they met with the mayor's advisor instead and requested a future meeting with the mayor.
Councilman Steve Adams, who voted against forming the sister city relationship, was applauded when he addressed the protesters.
"Too many are suffering in the country for this to happen," Adams said of conditions in Vietnam. "People were murdered when the Americans pulled out at the end of the war. And this is why we shouldn't be doing this."
Mayor Rusty Bailey said Wednesday, before the activists arrived, that he understood their concerns and encouraged them to protest peacefully.