OC Protests plans next steps in movement to fight police brutality and strengthen Black coalitions in O.C.
After weeks of protests in Orange County demanding an end to police brutality, activists are now faced with what’s next and how to make lasting change in their communities.
OC Protests, which has been collaborating with protest organizers throughout Orange County, is hoping to usher in that next step.
The group, which is largely run on Instagram, has been a primary source for many activists looking to get involved with the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd involving police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with second-degree murder. OC Protests provides information on demonstrations throughout the county, collaborates with and supports community and protest organizers with the movement and, more recently, started organizing protests and community events.
OC Protests has also taken a lead role in planning the next step in the movement.
“We need to get people involved in their local legislature,” said Zoe-Raven Wianecki, who runs OC Protests. “That means getting people to Board of Supervisors meetings, City Council meetings and school district meetings. Making sure people know the laws and policies being made and where the money is going in order to actively make change.”
On Tuesday, the group partnered with Know Justice Know Peace for a demonstration at the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting. The groups organized people to speak at public comments and held a rally outside the meeting as the board considered the budget for the Sheriff’s Department.
Local government officials can likely expect similar demonstrations moving forward.
The group is regularly meeting with other organizers to discuss how best to create change at the local level, whether that be starting petitions or sending lists of demands to local government leaders.
OC Protests is also using its online platform to educate young activists on how to get involved.
“We will continue to push for progress,” said Wianecki, who is Black. “All we want is to exist safely ... People really struggle with Black Lives Matter and what it means. All we are trying to do is get to a place where we can exist in the same capacity that white community members get to exist in Orange County.”
OC Protests was started by a small group of non-Black people in the early days of the protests. After gaining some traction, the founders decided to hand the account over to Black community leaders. Wianecki volunteered to take the helm.
“They wanted to make sure that Black voices were being centered,” said Wianecki, 23.
In the early days, OC Protests was largely providing protest information to the community. As the amount of demonstrations swelled throughout the county in the days following Floyd’s death, it was difficult to find out what and where protests were taking place, as well as which protests were legitimate. OC Protests filled that role.
The group has quickly expanded since then, getting more deeply involved with the movement. OC Protests currently has a six-member board of directors, and the group is in the process of attaining its nonprofit status. A website will also soon be up.
“OC Protests is relatively new, but I have seen them rise to this occasion in a way that is inclusive, multicultural and also presents a fierce resistance to white nationalist sentiments in Orange County,” said Ferin Kidd, founder of Black OC. “I think OC Protests definitely is emerging as a social leadership organization in Orange County that will be inclusive of all races and powerful.”
The group’s goals have also changed, with the aim of becoming a facilitator for Black unity in Orange County through a community coalition fund which will be used to get money in the hands of Black community leaders, businesses and organizations. They will also begin working on establishing a Black community center in Orange County.
“Here in OC, we do not have a large Black congregative presence,” Wianecki said. “The Black community in OC is spread out. That is largely due to the gentrification of specifically some of our more urban areas ... The next step is to reconnect Black community members, so we can start circulating and building physical roots here in OC. So we are not just residents but are active parts of the community.”
Like many, this movement is personal for Wianecki, who is half Black and half Italian.
“Growing up I struggled with my personal connection to my blackness, especially being mixed,” Wianecke said. “It wasn’t until I was like 19 that I really felt comfortable diving into my heritage.”
Wianecke said she’s experienced racism her entire life, even coming from family members. She grew up in a conservative Catholic home. She said she also experiences racism in Orange County because her husband is white.
Wianecke became an activist after learning about Black history and liberation while on the speech and debate team at Santiago Canyon College. She’s currently an assistant coach of the team, focusing on Black women and their involvement with liberation movements.
“I am still growing within my own activism, and I am learning everyday,” Wianecki said. “I am trying to encourage people that they need to learn and grow as well.”
Wianecki is hopeful the next stage in the movement, getting people civically involved, will spur change.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are incredibly angry, which I sympathize with as a Black person living in Orange County,” Wianecki said. “They are angry at the responses BLM has gotten and at the pushback we get as a movement. But I have felt so much joy and empowerment in seeing our community come together in a way I never expected Orange County to.”
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