Hundreds gather in SLO to protest police violence against people of color


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On May 31, R.A.C.E. Matters SLO County organized a local Act Now for Justice rally in Mitchell Park as part of the national movement against police brutality and outrage at the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 
NO JUSTICE NO PEACE Hundreds of San Luis Obispo community members, wearing masks, rallied on May 31 against police violence against people of color. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • NO JUSTICE NO PEACE Hundreds of San Luis Obispo community members, wearing masks, rallied on May 31 against police violence against people of color.

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested Floyd, 46, after a deli employee accused him using a counterfeit $20 bill. Officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck and back for more than 8 minutes while he pleaded with police that he couldn’t breathe, eventually losing consciousness.

Opening up the rally, R.A.C.E. Matters SLO County founder Courtney Haile thanked attendees for showing up and demonstrating to the nation that “San Luis Obispo, like many cities across America, have had enough."

“What did it take for this moment to have awakened? How much black trauma, dehumanization, and disregard for black life must we see on camera before we transform this country,” Haile said. “We’re here for black life, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, so many more, and those who have not been filmed.”

Haile told New Times she felt great and astounded by the number of attendees as R.A.C.E. Matters mobilized to create this event the day before it occurred.

She anticipated the event would garner about 50 to 100 people and envisioned passing a bullhorn around so people could vent and speak their truth.

Considering the current public health crisis, she said, there was a larger turnout than expected and a diverse spectrum of ages.

Some held signs that said, “Black Lives Matter More Than White Feelings.”

“No Justice. No Peace,” another read.

The message, she said, is to support black lives and not just black individuals that get killed and “become famous for a couple of weeks.”

“It’s not just posting #BlackLivesMatter, or it’s not just reacting to one black man who was killed on camera; it’s paying attention to how black people are treated and feeling in your community,” she said.

Other speakers shared their experiences of being a person of color in San Luis Obispo, and the rally also included music, poetry, an African libation ceremony, and 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence for Floyd.

Tianna Arata told her story about organizing a peaceful protest with friends and her mother on May 28 in San Luis Obispo. A man approached her group, Arata said, and told them they “didn’t belong here” and if they didn’t like it they could “go back to Chicago.” She said the man came back with his car and ran into the group that was on the sidewalk.

“Had my white mom not been there to shelter me, I have no doubt in my mind he would have tried to run me over,” she said. “Everybody loves to point the blame and say San Luis is such a nice community. It’s so beautiful. There’s so much opportunity here. But you know what we lack? We lack diversity. We lack a voice. We lack community.”

Once the rally ended, Haile said the attendees organically started walking toward downtown San Luis Obispo to march.

Local high school students organized another peaceful protest on June 1, which began at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, and attendees marched through the streets once again.

Aside from rallies and protests, Haile said activism can include donating, documenting with photographs, talking with friends and family, and educating yourself on laws and public policies. ∆
—Karen Garcia


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