Mailbag: Newport Beach police treated us demonstrators better than those in other cities

Protesters walk down Irvine Avenue in Newport Beach during a recent Black Lives Matter march.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

This is an open letter to the Newport Beach Police Department.

Last week, four protests descended on Newport Beach on the same day. I would like to thank you for your calm and decorum as you protected local businesses, ensured the safety of protesters and allowed us to exercise our free speech to raise our voices against racism and police violence.

Planning our first protest, my co-organizer and I were determined to include our young children. Even as there were unfounded fears that some of the protests might bring violence and looting, we had confidence that you would protect our families. That lifetime of trust is just one element of the privilege I enjoy as a product of my white skin.

Thank you for being brave by not giving in to the many loud voices calling for preemptive curfews that would have curtailed our rights as they did in Costa Mesa.

Thank you for keeping an attitude of peace by not showing up to our protest with militarized vehicles and riot gear as they did in Santa Ana. Thank you for not declaring the protests an unlawful assembly as they did in Huntington Beach.

I’m sure as people across the country protest police violence, it must sometimes feel like a personal attack. I want you to know, I don’t think every police officer is a racist.

That said, if police officers don’t call out and punish racist behavior, if they are resistant to transparency and accountability in their use of force, if they are turning off their body cameras and turning a blind eye, if they don’t try to assess and correct the implicit biases that we all have, then they are part of the problem. I hope all members of your department are looking at themselves and how they can improve.

What would your officers’ reactions have been if a black man had shattered a window at Fashion Island, leaving valuable property at risk? Would it have been as calm and gentle as your response to the white man who drove a car into a crowd of protesters, putting many lives at risk?

I don’t know the answers, but they are some of the questions we need to ask as we move toward equity in the way our citizens are policed.

Unfortunately, even when individual police departments take a hard look at racism within their organizations, it won’t be enough. We all participate in a system that perpetuates racial oppression, especially our criminal justice system. As the rest of the world awakens to what the black community has always known, that protection and justice are not fairly distributed, sweeping changes will be needed.

We will always need people to protect and serve, but that might not always look the way policing has historically, especially if we want our black communities to feel the same level confidence and trust that white citizens take for granted. I hope Newport Beach will be on the forefront of welcoming these changes.

Sara Barron Johnson
Newport Beach

Arts Conservatory stands with victims

The words last uttered by George Floyd were, “I can’t breathe.”

As an African American wife, mother of three and arts advocate it became overwhelming, frustrating and exhausting trying to explain this atrocity, along with the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. It was a vivid reminder of the inequalities and unacceptable indignities that many blacks constantly endure in our nation.

These events, I hope, lead us all to recognize the need to strengthen our resolve to be part of the creation of a better world, a world in which reason and compassion prevail over ignorance and hatred. A stand to eliminate racism, and other negative influences on our progression as a nation.

The Arts & Learning Conservatory takes a stand and an obligation in our community to lead the change we want to see. We are committed to creating accessible, equitable and a mutually respectful environment, free from discrimination.

Our programs remain a positive influence on our youth beyond an education. We will continue to be the voice for those who have none. Our collective future depends on it.

Here are some ways you can help:

Thank you for standing with us, using your voice toward effective change.

Debora Wondercheck
Costa Mesa

The writer is the founder of the Arts & Learning Conservatory in Costa Mesa.

I can only imagine if this were my church

President Trump’s overtaking of St. John’s Episcopal Church to use as the backdrop for his press conference is the gravest infringement of separation of church and state I have ever seen. I imagine how I would feel if this were my church committed to living out our mission, as a place of healing and hope with a vow to seek justice and peace.

The Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson-Cano
Costa Mesa

The writer is a pastor at Fairview Community Church.

Sideline football this fall

The question of whether or not to play high school, college or pro football this fall troubles me greatly. The coronavirus doesn’t play favorites when it comes to teams, locker rooms or stadiums.

Which is more important, healthy sports budgets or a healthy society? I urge everyone involved in football — from school boards and universities to coaches and owners alike — to reconsider their decisions to kick off the 2020 season this fall.

Denny Freidenrich
Laguna Beach

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