Black lives still matter, Oceanside marchers say in peaceful march
Friends who met at earlier protest organized event, promise to push for justice
Two freshly minted activists gathered about 100 people outside the Oceanside Civic Center and marched them to the beach Sunday afternoon in memory of victims of police violence and in support of Black Lives Matter.
Oceanside friends Rayven Jones and Emily Medile met for the first time at a protest a few weeks ago in Vista and found a common interest in civil rights.
“Since then we’ve been partners for justice,” said Jones, 29, who is Black. Medile is White and 23.
Together they made Instagram videos on racial topics such as White privilege, all lives matter and police brutality. One of their videos had over 1,000 views, she said, but they’re just getting started.
Concerned that the Black Lives Matter movement might be slowing down the two women decided to organize their own protest, called Black Lives Still Matter, and Sunday was their first event. It went much like the dozens of protests across San Diego County since George Floyd was killed by a White police officer May 25 in Minneapolis.
First people with signs and bullhorns stood at the four corners of North Coast Highway and Civic Center Drive, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “Say his name ... ,” “No justice, no peace ...” and similar refrains. Then, after a brief break for instructions and a pep talk, they marched down the highway to Oceanside Boulevard.
At Oceanside Boulevard the marchers paused in the middle of the intersection, stopping traffic in all directions for a few minutes, resulting in a few unhappy drivers who shouted and honked. But before things got too tense, the procession headed west toward the beach, then north to end at Tyson Park. There they lay on the grass in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, which is the length of time the officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
During the march most bystanders were supportive. A few shouted “Thank you!” and some raised a clenched fist. Only a few offered obscene gestures or angry words.
One tall Black man, Aki Burkes, stopped his pickup in front of the Civic Center, got out and began taking photos with his cell phone.
“It is important that America gets this point, and the youth are the ones to get it across,” said Burkes, who served in the Marines in the early ‘90s.
“I believe in peaceful protests,” he said. “It’s how people show their worth, and how people are coming together in this nation ... it’s all about respect.”
At the park, Jemeia Hope, 22, who goes by “Jaybird,” spoke briefly to the crowd and sang a song called “I Can’t Breathe,” a tribute to George Floyd.
“We are not going to stop until we see actual change,” Hope said. “We need laws to change systemic racism ... we want everyone to understand.”
Other speakers encouraged people to get involved politically, to get to know their elected officials and to vote in November.
One of the most senior participants was Larry Ringstaff, 61, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and served in the Marine Corps before moving to Oceanside in 1989.
He wore a T-shirt with a picture of his uncle, Edward Laird, who was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a now-famous group of Black fighter and bomber pilots in World War II. Laird was killed in combat in North Africa.
Ringstaff said he remembers when fire hoses and police dogs were turned on peaceful protesters in his hometown of Birmingham.
“I’m here because of the injustice, not just for Black people but for the systematic racism in this country,” Ringstaff said. “It’s a great event. I’m proud of these young people.”
Another Black Lives Matter event scheduled Sunday in Santee was initially listed as a protest for justice for Black and Brown woman, but it later became a food and clothing drive for the needy.
An organizer said late Sunday that they decided because of the COVID-19 crisis and the uncertain status of government assistance programs that their efforts would be better directed toward collecting essential donations.
They collected about 45 boxes of food and hundreds of pounds of clothing, she said. The protest will be rescheduled in the near future.
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