At Long Beach City College’s Liberal Arts Campus, hundreds of protesters lifted posters, and their voices, for a march down Clark Avenue towards Lakewood City Hall today.
The demonstration, among others across Long Beach, marks the sixth day of protests against police brutality.
The death of black Minneapolis man George Floyd on Memorial Day acted as a catalyst for the movement. Viral footage of the incident flooded social media, showing Floyd dying of asphyxiation while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for a staggering 8 minutes and 46 seconds, 3 minutes of which Floyd was unconscious.
His death sparked protests nationwide in what some are calling a revived civil rights movement, with protests occurring in every state across the country.
Protesters began to trickle into Long Beach City College around 11:30 a.m. Within the next two hours, a group of a dozen protesters had amassed into hundreds. Some passed out posters to fellow protesters while others led chants through a megaphone.
Chants like “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives, They Matter Here” were met with honks from passing cars.
The protest was organized by 19-year-old Long Beach City College students Aazalet Danage and Rylan G., who requested his last name not be published.
Danage said that the video of Floyd was just one reason they organized the protests.
“It was very traumatic and very sad seeing somebody just die in front of your eyes basically,” Danage said. “And of how many other people have gone through the same thing but it just hasn’t been recorded, is the saddest part.”
Protesters hold up signs on East Carson Street in front of Long Beach City College to gain the attention of drivers.
“[The video of Floyd] was just resounding for everyone. That’s why you see so much diversity in these protests, because there’s no way to justify that,” Rylan said. “The videos have been able to capture what’s been happening to us for generations now.”
Rylan has experienced discrimination by police in the past. While being dropped off at his grandmother’s house, an unmarked police car drove up behind him. They did not announce themselves and had their weapons drawn.
“If I had gotten out of the car, with [the officers] not announcing themselves, I wouldn’t have seen them. I would have possibly been someone on a t-shirt as well,” Rylan said. “It was one of the worst experiences ever, but it’s pretty common among Black Americans.”
For many, the issue of discrimination against Black Americans is all-encompassing.
“Ever since I was a young girl, my mom has told me, ‘Somebody is not going to like you because of the color of your skin.’ I don’t want to tell my children that,” Courtney Bland, black 24-year-old and cousin of Danage, said. “They say we’re the greatest country in the world but it doesn’t feel like it to me. If it doesn’t feel like it to me, I know it doesn’t feel like it to my brothers and sisters.”
At 1 p.m., the group began their one mile march down Clark Avenue towards the Lakewood Sheriff Department, which sits parallel to Lakewood City Hall.
There, protesters were met with police officers and National Guardsmen armed with rubber bullets and batons. Though there was tension between the police and protesters, there was no violence.
In front of city hall, Danage invited fellow protesters to share the megaphone and voice their grievances. One after another, protesters came towards the police line to share their experiences. They repeated the names of well-known victims of police brutality: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among others.
“Where’s my PTE?,” a healthcare worker said. “You’ve given 48% to gun us down,” referring to the fact that police receive 48% of Long Beach’s total city budget.
“I’m tired of talking to each other about doing the right thing. I’m tired of not knowing if I’m going to make it home,” Bland said. “Why do I have to be under control when they’re trained?”
One speaker asked protesters, now kneeling, to look up at the sky and sing happy birthday in memory of Breonna Taylor, who would have turned 27 today if she hadn’t been shot by Louisville police.
At 2:20 p.m., protesters made their march back to the Long Beach City College campus, chanting as they walked.
“Nothing worth fighting for has ever come free, especially freedom,” Rylan said. “You have to keep pushing and you have to keep fighting. Things like this will never come from being out here and protesting and fading away. We have to keep the energy on them.”