By Joseph Baroud, Contributing Writer
People of all races, color and creed flocked to downtown Long Beach Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the protests against police unjustifiably killing unarmed black people nationwide.
Protests across America were ignited after the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd who was 46 when he was killed. Floyd who was black was killed by Derek Chauvin, a white cop who held his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, in which Floyd could be heard begging for his life because he couldn’t breathe, after he threw him onto the ground when he had trouble putting him into his squad car. Floyd worked security at a nightclub and his employer also had paid Chauvin to park outside of the club in his patrol card while he was off duty in order for club patrons to know not to get too out of hand because the cops are right outside.
After America watched this event unfold, thanks to bystanders who were filming, in utter disbelief. After soaking it in, the disbelief turned into outrage. People ― black, Latino, white, Asian American in major cities across America took to the streets. So much anger and energy brewed from not only this incident, but the many that have taken place, especially within the past decade.
May 30 was Long Beach’s turn to mourn and the masses showed up. As soon as you drove off of the Vincent Thomas bridge and into downtown Long Beach, you felt the energy. At 3 p.m. the intersection of Long Beach Blvd. and Broadway started to fill as a speaker with a megaphone stood in the middle of the street and spoke of the unarmed black civilians who were killed at the hands of a white man in a police uniform.
The speaker, who was joined by the protesters, yelled into the sky the names of victims of police violence as if they could hear them, and promised the world that they would never be forgotten and their deaths won’t be in vain.
The intersection continued to fill until it matched the protesters’ fury. After 45 minutes, the intersection became an entire block filled with people, from sidewalk to sidewalk. Once the street was packed, the speaker then yelled to march. Hundreds of people, with banners, flags and everything they could sport that broadcasted the way they felt began to march, yelling out no justice, no peace, black lives matter, no racist police and many slogans that have coincided with these events.
The protesters who filled the street marched through Long Beach Boulevard, down Ocean Boulevard, past Cherry Street., up to Broadway Avenue and back down to Ocean Boulevard. Drivers along those streets couldn’t do anything but watch as the streets were impeded. None of them seemed to mind and they joined with the protesters honking and making noise and showing their support.
“I’m here to stand up against police brutality,” said Rachel Kester, a Long Beach native. “And stand with Black Lives Matter. I think as many people as possible should be here.”
Everywhere the protesters went people came outside of their homes, to their balconies and atop their roofs to voice their support and show their solidarity with them. People were climbing on top of anything, newspaper stands, mailboxes, to show their solidarity and be noticed more or less.
The gathering of hundreds was way too big for only one person with a megaphone to lead the chants as they marched along with their flags and banners plastered with supporting sentiments, so multiple people took on the role.
From the front to the back, no part of the line of protesters were ever silent. Even those who couldn’t hear, took to the streets. One woman, pushing her wheelchair bound, 96 year old mother who served in World War II and was hard of hearing said they were marching because they both felt like it was their duty to be there, even though their friends and other relatives stayed home fearful of the raucous atmosphere amidst news reports of violence at the recent protests.
“I’m here because I feel that I saw a lynching,” said Liz Amill who was pushing her mother Barbara Hendick through the crowd in a wheelchair. “I saw it. It could [have] been my children and we’re done with it. She’s fought all her life. She’s defending diversity. I feel nothing but good energy here.”
People are fed up with having to be afraid of those who are tasked and paid to protect them because of widespread abuse of authority without consequences. Chauvin, a trained officer who was charged with third degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death ― a charge that means Chauvin unintentionally killed Floyd. It’s hard to imagine a person accidentally putting their whole body weight on a subdued person’s neck on the ground. What would the charge be if he wasn’t a cop?
The march began to shrink at approximately 6 p.m. when people, separate from the protesters, began looting stores at Long Beach’s downtown outlet mall, the Pike. Many protesters didn’t want to be a part of the looting and began walking separately to leave the area.
The protesters who continued to march went down Pine Avenue across Ocean Boulevard to the Pike. Officers who were already in the area to quell the looting dispersed tear gas and shot rubber bullets at protesters until they took off running in all directions.
Around the Pike, people were running with clothes in their hands. And shoes were strewn about on the ground alongside a bunch of empty jewelry boxes taken from Kay’s Jewelers. Even though most of the protesters didn’t participate in the looting, some did and unfortunately that has been what people are talking about.