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Driver speeds through peaceful Newport Beach protest, striking bicyclist

Prostesters rally at the Newport Beach Civic Center Park bridge in Newport Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A series of peaceful protests over the police killing of George Floyd rolled through Newport Beach on Wednesday.

Though the protests were calm, a television camera captured a scary scene on Balboa Boulevard when a vehicle zipped through a crowd of demonstrators — eventually colliding with a bicyclist.

No one was injured, and the driver stopped and is cooperating with the investigation, Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman Heather Rangel said. This doesn’t appear to have been a deliberate action, she added.

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Two other protests were scheduled in Newport Beach later in the evening, one on the pedestrian bridge over San Miguel Drive at Civic Center Park near City Hall, and another at the Back Bay.

For Gale Oliver Jr., a pastor at the Greater Light Family Church in Santa Ana, a protest against racism and police brutality in one of Orange County’s wealthiest enclaves was a sign of the times.

“It’s a blessing that this is going on in Newport Beach,” said Oliver, who is black. “I mean, this is going on in Newport Beach? I guess America is finally listening.”

Oliver said pastors in Santa Ana began meeting regularly with Orange County law enforcement officials about five years ago in hopes of ending “policing from the point of view that they’re under attack.” He’s seen progress, but more needs to be done, he said, here and throughout the country.

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“Two men have said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ One said it eight times, one said it 11 times,” Oliver said, referring to the deaths of Floyd and Eric Garner, who died in 2014 while being restrained in a chokehold by a New York City policeman. “‘I can’t breathe’ — what that really means is there’s things that will suffocate you. Racism will suffocate you. Hate will suffocate you.”

Kyle Scallon, 21, turned out Wednesday to protest not just Floyd’s death but also a discriminatory approach he believes law enforcement in Orange County has taken for too long. Driving in his hometown of Mission Viejo and elsewhere in the county, Scallon said, he has been pulled over by officers intent on questioning his girlfriend, who is Creole.

“They ask me for my license,” he said, “and they ask her where she lives, where she’s going, what she’s doing in the car.” In his experience, Scallon said, the default view for police is to assume people of color are doing something wrong, no matter the circumstances of the encounter.

“I’m here because I just want cops to realize not everyone’s bad,” he said, standing with a group of protesters on the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway. “It’s become the system, but they need to realize not everyone they meet is bad.”


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