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Peaceful Black Lives Matter protest closes out busy weekend in Huntington Beach

Protesters hold up signs during Saturday's protest in Huntington Beach.
Protesters hold up signs during Saturday’s protest in Huntington Beach.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest was held Sunday afternoon in front of the Huntington Beach Police Department as part of a busy weekend of protests in Surf City.

About 200 protesters attended the Civic Center rally, which featured speakers including Rep. Harley Rouda and former Mixed Martial Arts star Chuck Liddell.

Huntington Beach resident Randy Wright, 30, was one of the organizers of the three-hour event. He said there was a police presence at the protest, but they kept their distance; no counter-protesters were present.

“It was a lot of local Huntington Beach residents, and everyone there was really positive,” Wright said. “People came up to me the whole time afterward and were saying, ‘Hey, how we can be involved? We want to be a part of making Huntington Beach a place for everybody.’ It was just really great to see.”

Huntington Beach Police Department spokeswoman Angie Bennett said that no arrests or incidents took place Sunday at the Civic Center protest or another Black Lives Matter protest at Huntington Beach Pier.

Nine arrests were made Saturday during another protest at the pier, which did feature counter-protesters.

There was also a paddle out Saturday morning on the north side of the pier in honor of George Floyd, the Black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a video showed a white police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and three other officers on the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting.

Huntington Beach resident Gina Clayton-Tarvin, the president of the Ocean View School District Board of Trustees, also spoke at Sunday’s Civic Center protest and explained why.

“The lives of my African-American students matter to me,” said Clayton-Tarvin, who teaches in Cerritos. “I know that there are people in the community that might offend, and I’m not sure why … Everybody deserves a right to breathe. We’re in the year 2020; I can’t believe this conversation is having to happen again. But it does have to happen because people are not being treated fairly.”

Businesses in downtown Huntington Beach again prepared for the worst with the scheduled protests rolling in. Many boarded up their windows for the second straight weekend, but no looting was reported.

Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates posted a picture on his Facebook on Thursday, a prayer seeking protection for the city’s citizens, businesses and police officers. However, a picture accompanying the post featuring St. Michael, who appears white, with his foot on the head of Satan, who appears to have dark skin, drew criticism.

Gates, who did not return messages Monday, changed the picture to St. Michael holding the hand of a child. On Saturday night, he made another post praising Huntington Beach police officers and community members for “allowing folks to protest, while also maintaining peace and order, which protected not only the 1st Amendment, but also our community and businesses.”

Protests have been happening around the county and the nation for two weeks. On Sunday night, members of the Minneapolis City Council said they intend to dismantle the city’s police department.

On Monday, Democrats in the House of Representatives announced a bill that would, among other things, make it easier to sue police officers for misconduct in civil court and prosecute them for criminal behavior, as well as prohibiting the use of chokeholds and certain no-knock warrants.

“The community is risking their life in the middle of a pandemic to make a statement,” said Aaron McCall, a Costa Mesa resident and activist who spoke at Sunday’s protest in Huntington Beach. “That statement is that we do not want any more police violence. The elected officials who represent the people, instead of an ideology, are hearing that and trying to step up to the plate.”

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