Speakers share personal stories during Black Lives Matter protests at Huntington Beach Pier, Newport Beach
A large crowd was anticipated at the Huntington Beach Pier, and in accordance with those expectations, the city decided to have the surrounding area blocked off to traffic, Huntington Beach police Lt. Ryan Reilly said.
In the middle of the intersection at Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, people gathered to peacefully protest racial injustice and police brutality.
Speakers, encircled by fellow protesters, told personal stories on the subject, and one gave the crowd a history lesson on incidents that had shocked the world but had not resulted in lasting changes for the better in race relations.
“First of all, I’m an American citizen, and I’m a teacher,” said Jon Williams, 61, of Huntington Beach. “I’m a high school teacher at Estancia High School, and I teach U.S. History. The theme of my coursework for the entire year is social justice and promises of the American Constitution, and when justice is not served, when our rights are being taken away from us, that we have the constitutional rights as American citizens to fight against that injustice.”
Kamelle Nandi, 30, of Huntington Beach said she had held onto the memory of being called a racial slur in her hometown for 12 years. On Saturday, she spoke about the incident, saying that people are not born with hate, but taught to do so.
Craig Bennett, 43, of Huntington Beach is a videographer who has been taking an active role in spreading word of the movement by recording moments from the protests he has attended. He believes that the demonstrations seen across the country, and around the world, are telling that the message is being heard this time, with such events not just happening in urban areas, but in suburban communities.
“Now, it’s kind of like you see places like Laguna or Aliso Viejo, or like Mission Viejo, cities that normally, not saying that they’re not on the side of the protesting people, but they never come out,” Bennett said. “This time, it seems like they’re actually coming out and be like, you know what, either, ‘We’ve been with you,’ or, ‘We’re with you now.’”
Huntington Beach police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department watched over the protest, some of which formed a line between the “Black Lives Matter” protest and a counterprotest.
At one point during a requested moment of silence, a chant of “HB matters” sounded from the counterprotest side, to which the response was a chant of, “All cities matter.”
Shops up and down Main Street were boarded up ahead of the protest. A mural reflecting Jason Hilbert’s goal of spreading peace, love, unity and respect was included on the boards outside of his shop, HBBC – Huntington Beach Bicycle Company (328 Main St.).
“If we have to be boarded up and unable to do business for a week, then let’s take this opportunity to spread some love,” Hilbert said. “I don’t want to see either extremes act out their differences on our streets. It’s not fair. It’s not cool. Everyone believes the same thing as far as, … they don’t want police brutality, they don’t want racism. There’s no time for hate.”
Another protest is scheduled at the Huntington Beach Civic Center from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is working on police reform, including a restriction on use of force by law enforcement. He is seeking a ban on carotid holds, saying that a stranglehold technique designed to restrict blood flow to the brain “has no place any longer in 21st century practices and policing.”
Marcus Brooks and Estelle Morris, a pair of freshmen at Orange County School for the Arts, organized a protest that started at Newport Harbor High and marched down to the Back Bay.
Brooks said he hoped to start a conversation to bring the issue of systemic racism to the forefront.
“I just thought that if I spread something around social media, I could get the people that don’t pay attention as much to open their eyes to these issues that they may not focus on as much because I am biracial,” Brooks said. “My mom is white, and my dad is black.”
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley was one of hundreds to show up for the marching protest, wearing a pink shirt with the message, “Silence is not an option.”
Morris said she couldn’t agree more.
“I think anyone can do it,” Morris said of the numbers that showed up in support of the cause. “It’s important to not silence people. It’s important to let black voices be heard, and through the power of social media and the internet, look at how many people we’ve gathered.”
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