Starting at police headquarters, more than 2K protesters march in downtown San Diego
A San Diego police spokesman said the crowd was estimated at 2,000. A smaller crowd -- about 100 people -- gathered in Chula Vista with the mayor and police
A group of thousands took to the streets of downtown San Diego and marched through Hillcrest and North Park Thursday, as local protesters rallying against the killings of unarmed black men and women by police officers carried into a seventh day.
The march began in the evening outside San Diego police headquarters on Broadway and 14th Street and headed northwest toward Hillcrest, with participants chanting, “No justice, no peace!” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Some shouted, “Abolish police.”
On social media, the event was billed as a “Black-led march” for justice and police reform, a cause that echoed that of others organized throughout San Diego County after the May 25 in-police-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked protests across the nation. An announcement posted online said the event was organized by “a group of black youth in San Diego,” who were not identified and chose to field questions via email only “to avoid being targeted for their actions.”
San Diego police had a helicopter crew fly over the gathering. On the ground, officers on motorcycles stayed ahead of the group, giving them space as they marched on. A police spokesman said the crowd was estimated at 2,000.
“For all the people who believe we can’t change the world: Do you see how many people came here? Because black lives (expletive) matter,” said Joey Moss, a 22-year-old black man from Mira Mesa.
Cara Cast, 45, of San Diego said she was struck by the size of the gathering and noted that many people were wearing masks to protect themselves and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s the most respectful protest I’ve ever participated in,” she said, adding that she had attended recent protests in La Mesa and downtown San Diego.
She held a sign with a list of values she believed law enforcement officers should uphold, including integrity and dependability. An arrow pointed to the word “justice.”
“It’s time for a change,” said Cast, who is white. “Black lives matter.”
While many protests this week have been peaceful, others last weekend became contentious when demonstrators broke through police lines and onto freeways and officers deployed tear gas to dispurse the crowds. In some protests, particularly in La Mesa on Saturday, looters and vandals broke into businesses as night fell, and damaged City Hall and other property.
Two banks were set on fire.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Thursday that he called in the National Guard to help with security. More than 200 troops were sent to the area Wednesday night.
The march in San Diego Thursday evening was peaceful as the crowds headed through downtown streets, into the North Park neighborhood and back to police headquarters. Raising their hands in the air, many of the participants chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
Some linked arms as they marched.
At various points throughout the route, groups of bystanders handed out water bottles to the protesters. Residents in a high-rise apartment building cheered the marchers on as they passed by.
The gathering in San Diego was the largest in the county on Thursday by far but there were others, including in Santee where 75 to 100 people had gathered on the corner of Mission Gorge Road and Cuyamaca Street. Many of them held signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and " Justice for George.”
In Chula Vista, a crowd of close to 100 protesters took a knee along with police and the mayor at Chula Vista Community Park as part of a peaceful demonstration to call for police reform and racial justice.
Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas and police knelt with protesters for a moment of silence for Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Salas said she came to the demonstration, her first since the protests and civil unrest began in the county a week ago, to support the people in Chula Vista who are calling for justice and equality.
“I think it’s very important as a community leader to say that we stand behind the protesters, we understand the pain of the African American community and that this kind of stuff should not be tolerated,” she said, “and that we have to make systemic changes not only within our nation and our cities, but within ourselves.”
Protesters held homemade signs with messages including, “Do not go gentle into that goodnight. Rage rage rage,” and the words, “Say their names” surrounded by photographs of black people killed by police. They chanted “No justice, no peace” as passing vehicles honked, some with passengers cheering their support from open windows.
Bianca Holloway, 18, of Eastlake said she joined the demonstration to demand change on behalf of those who can’t.
“We must speak up because they don’t have the opportunity to do that anymore.”
Chula Vista resident Earnest Hayden, 52, said that as a black man, he has had some scary experiences being stopped by police for even the smallest infractions. He said he worries constantly about his 22-year-old son, who lives out of state, being similarly detained.
Hayden said his father was a police officer and so, while he respects police in general and appreciates their service, he thinks the public would be safer if law enforcement agencies did more to routinely screen for problematic officers.
Staff writer Andrew Dyer contributed to this report.
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