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Peaceful march held in downtown San Diego; mayor, police chief announce meetings to discuss de-escalation

Balboa Park protest
Protesting the death of George Floyd, a large group of people display signs showing their anger and demanding justice for Floyd in Balboa Park on June 2, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Marchers called for police reform and racial justice

A crowd of several hundred people calling for police reform and racial justice marched peacefully through downtown San Diego and into Balboa Park Tuesday afternoon, the fifth straight day residents have taken to the streets.

The march began in the early afternoon and was organized by SD Peaceful Protests, and wound its way through downtown before ending up on the grassy strip of Balboa Park along Sixth Avenue near Laurel Street.

There, demonstrators listened to speeches and spread out on the lawn, heeding the advice of organizers to observe social distancing as much as possible. The marchers then left the park and joined up with a second group of hundreds more demonstrators, ending up at the San Diego County Administration Center.

At 6 p.m. they again decamped and were marching toward San Diego City Hall. By a little after 7:30 p.m., the group had walked back to the San Diego County Administration Center, where organizers led the group in protest songs.

By about 8 p.m., the demonstration ended and the crowd began to disperse, though a few hundred people remained outside the county building as of 9:45 p.m.

Balboa Park protest
Protesting the death of George Floyd, a large group of people display signs showing their anger and demanding justice for Floyd in Balboa Park on June 2, 2020 in San Diego, California.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Meanwhile in Santee on Tuesday night, sheriff’s deputies arrested two protesters who were part of a third-straight night of small demonstrations in the East County city. A sheriff’s lieutenant confirmed the two arrests, but was unable to provide more details.

An OnScene TV reporter filming the protests showed deputies arresting the pair outside the Wells Fargo on Mission Gorge Road and Cuyamaca Street. According to the footage, deputies broke up the small demonstration at 8 p.m. because of a curfew imposed by Santee officials and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

The pair were arrested because they did not disperse quickly enough, according to OnScene TV. As deputies walked to their patrol vehicle with one of the arrestees, a white man, he told them, “you guys are on the wrong side of history.”

Earlier Tuesday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at an afternoon news conference that two groups that oversee police conduct in the city will each hold emergency meetings this week to discuss introducing de-escalation policies in the department.

Sharmaine Mosley, the executive director of the Community Review Board on Police Practices, said that group will meet Thursday evening to discuss asking the department to adopt a de-escalation program similar to one adopted in Baltimore. That policy includes a variety of techniques, from talking in a calm tone of voice to backing off to reduce tensions and other measures, all aimed at avoiding the use of force as much as possible.

On Wednesday, the Citizens Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations will meet also to discuss de-escalation policies for the department. Information on how to view the meetings is available on the website for the CRB and also on the website for the CAB.

Both meetings come in the wake of the decision by the mayor and San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit to ban use of the carotid artery restraint by city police. That announcement was made Monday, and was made in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police and after several days of protests in San Diego and nationally.

The restraint, where an officer executes a hold on a person’s neck and applies pressure, has been banned by many large departments. While it can render a person unconscious, it can also cause serious injuries and death.

Nisleit said at the news conference that protesters have largely remained peaceful, though there have been trouble spots. On Monday night police made 17 arrests, he said.

The crowd that marched downtown Tuesday was smaller than one that marched in the area a day earlier, but carried the same concerns for reform of police agencies and racial equality. San Diego police in vehicles and motorcycles monitored the march and kept traffic away from the marchers for safety reasons.

Amir Harrison Jr., 29, one of the organizers, said it was encouraging to see the decision by city officials Monday to ban the use of the carotid restraint in the city police force, and said those pushing for reform can’t lose momentum.

“We can’t stop protesting until we make true institutional changes that can bring us true peace and safety,” he said.

Several hundred protesters also gathered Tuesday evening in 4S Ranch, the unincorporated community just west of Rancho Bernardo. The demonstrators chanted and waves signs on all four corners of Rancho Bernardo Road and Camino del Norte. Several dozen sheriff’s deputies gathered as a precaution about a quarter-mile away at the 4S Ranch substation. When deputies drove through the intersection, the protesters chanted, “hands up, don’t shoot.”

It was unclear who organized the protest, though several demonstrators said they had learned about it on social media.

During a separate demonstration earlier in the day, a procession of vehicles decorated with “Black Lives Matter” and other signs advocating for racial justice drove from 4S Ranch through streets in Rancho Bernardo, Carmel Mountain Ranch and Rancho Peñasquitos.

A similar parade organized by a middle school student and her family saw about 30 vehicles drive through the Rancho Santa Fe Village. At least 100 protesters also gathered late in the afternoon in Ramona, while a handful also gathered in the evening at the corners of Poway and Community roads in Poway.

City leaders in La Mesa, the site of protests, riots and looting on Saturday, extended a curfew until early Wednesday morning, as did city leaders in Santee, where small groups of protesters gathered Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights.

Staff reporter Alex Riggins and U-T Community Press Editor Elizabeth Marie Himchak contributed to this report.

Updates:

9:29 AM, Jun. 03, 2020: This story was updated with information about the arrest of two protesters in Santee.

9:29 AM, Jun. 03, 2020: This story was updated with additional details.

9:29 AM, Jun. 03, 2020: This story was updated with additional information.


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