A peaceful march from downtown Long Beach to the North Side of the City was held on Friday, July 3 in response to recent gun violence and racial tensions.
Protesters traveled by foot, skates, bikes, and by car up Atlantic Avenue from Ocean Boulevard to Artesia Boulevard, a total of 7.7 miles.
“Amongst racial tensions and shooting we as a community should put our foot down on any and everything dismantling our neighborhoods,” read the flyer for the protest, shared by organizer and local rapper Joey Fatts, “Come out and walk.”
Tensions between some portions of Long Beach’s Latino and Black communities had been building online after a local street vendor, Bililfo Fernandez, was robbed at gunpoint and assaulted by two suspects who were identified as Black men. Despite community members and activists reminding their social media followers that the entire Black community should not shoulder the blame for the crimes of two individuals, racist comments against Black people by Latinos were left under shared videos of Fernandez being attacked.
Unrelated to the Fernandez incident, gun violence had been recurring frequently in Long Beach during the weeks leading up to the march. This includes the shooting deaths of 23-year-old Jose Rodriguez on June 24 in the Washington neighborhood, 49-year-old Archie Harris on June 28 in North Long Beach and 33-year-old Braulio Chavarin on June 30 in North Long Beach. Further gun violence erupted the day after Harris’ death, on June 29, at a vigil being held for him near the intersection of Orange Avenue and South Street in Long Beach, which ended in the death of one woman and serious injuries in two others.
Signs held by marchers and on cars July 3 included “The time for justice is always right now,” “We are stronger together,” “Black Lives Matter,” and many more.
Many protesters also waved Mexican flags of different sizes as they marched.
Joey Fatts took to Instagram to urge unity between the Black and Latino communities, as did Los Angeles based Latino rapper Swifty Blue, who also attended the July 3 march. They both reiterated that the actions of a few individuals shouldn’t allow their communities to turn against each other, and that Black and Latino people accomplish more when they are united.
The Long Beach chapter of Black Lives Matter also participated in the march, including chapter co-founder Dawn Modkins.
The march attracted participants from outside Long Beach, including Derron Smith of Compton, who walked all 7.7 miles in the hot sun.
Smith told the Signal Tribune that he loved seeing people from different generations come together for the greater good during the march.
“As we’re walking, I’m praying to save lives– the kids’ lives.” Smith told the Signal Tribune. “[As] we’re walking, kids are out praising with us as we walk, because they want peace.”
Smith explained that while his community in Compton is plagued by gun violence, residents have no one to turn to because calling the police can often lead to further violence.
“I’m from Compton, where there’s always drive by shootings, always,” Smith said. “Where do we get peace at in our homes, when we hear gunfire? And when the police come to your door for protection, they come in to kill– and that’s what the devil does. He comes to kill, steal and destroy– those three things. We want to be protected. There ain’t no justice.”
Smith also commented on the hypocrisy of those who claim to be religious or spiritual but continue to practice racism and hate.
“It doesn’t make sense that you love God but you don’t love people,” Smith said.