Hundreds of people gathered in Monterey and Seaside on Saturday, May 30, to protest in solidarity with thousands of protesters across the country calling for justice for George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck, despite Floyd's protests that he could not breathe, until Floyd passed out.
Officer Derek Chauvin, along with three colleagues who stood by, were fired from the department. Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter, and protests have swept across the nation since Floyd's death on May 25.
Hundreds of people at Window on the Bay in Monterey lined both sides of Del Monte Avenue, and dozens of passing drivers honked in support. Protesters remained distant from each other to comply with shelter-in-place protocols, and most wore face coverings or masks.
It was the first-ever protest for 3-and-a-half-year-old Micah Macias and his sister, 5-and-a-half-year-old Nora Macias, who colored a sign that read "Black Lives Matter." Their dad, Joe Macias, is Latino, and their mom, Shardonnay Macias, is black. It was a family outing from Salinas to join Saturday's protest.
"I'm showing my kids, you stand up against injustice," Joe says. "Sometimes has to be done. We're lucky to live in this part of California, but not everywhere looks like this part of California."
They haven't shared with their children exactly what happened to Floyd, but their kids have seen them cry; they're already processing as parents how to discuss racism with their kids, and how to make change.
"It's hard to be hopeful, but you have to be," Joe says.
One of the coordinators of the protest was Nathaniel Sawyer of Marina, a black man who is a grad student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. "I'm tired of seeing people die on the streets," he says. "Sometimes, real change is when people come together and march in the streets."
The group did march through downtown Monterey and back, with police closing off Del Monte to traffic for a stretch.
Gail Ellis of Salinas says today was her first protest in years. A 70-year-old Detroit native, she remembers the civil rights movement. She says the video of Floyd dying under Chauvin's knee moved her to protest today.
"The intimacy of those nine minutes, seeing the fear in his eyes," she says.
Besides the immediacy of the video, Ellis says the moment feels different and more hopeful and that her friends across the political spectrum share the same views.
"This reminds me of the '60s," Ellis says. "TV brought the South to everyone and it changed everything. Once people saw the dogs and people getting sprayed—I’m hoping this could feel similar. There’s an intimacy of it being brought into our homes.
"What people did with that is we passed civil rights laws. I'm hoping the impact of this will spur the kind of changes we saw in the '60s."
Ellis, like many other protesters, also praised the peaceful, organized crowd, in contrast to some major cities where protesters have set buildings on fire and damaged property.
"The news media is not showing protests such as this one. I may be a Pollyanna, but I believe this is more representative," Ellis says.
She, like other protesters, believe that law enforcement is finally listening to calls for reform and better training.
Monterey Police Chief Dave Hober issued the following statement yesterday:
"I am compelled to write about the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department earlier this week. Our job as police officers is to protect and serve everyone, equally. Our job as police officers is to help people, including those we arrest. Our job is also to intercede when we see something that is wrong. On behalf of the Monterey Police Department, I want all to know that we share in the outrage surrounding the actions of the police officers involved in this event and in the sorrow of Mr. Floyd's death."
A few hours later on Saturday in Seaside, a smaller crowd (but still sizable, at 150-200 people) succeeded in claiming Broadway as a route to march, and went up and down from Fremont to Noche Buena several times.
It was a rowdier scene than in Monterey, but remained peaceful despite a few moments of tension with passersby and among protesters.
There was a scuffle about the message of "All Lives Matter" vs. "Black Lives Matter," and Seaside Mayor Ian Oglseby grabbed a megaphone to urge people to avoid fighting with each other.
He also used the opportunity to praise the Seaside Police Department.
"We don't have any [racist police officers] in Seaside," he said. "If they do something wrong, we are going to hold them accountable. We're going to try to be better, and we're listening to you."
Rev. Harold Lusk held a megaphone and addressed the crowd from on top of a bench. "Every life on the face of this earth matters," he said. "Don't kill he message and your movement…If you want to change the world, don't be like the world," he said.
He followed by leading a chant: "Black Lives Matter—All Lives Matter—We are the people."
One marcher who asked to be identified only as Goonda, his artist's name, also marched in San Jose last night, where he says he was shot with rubber bullets. Today's Seaside protest felt different to him than protests of the past because of the diversity of the crowd: "There's unity," he says. "There's black people, white people, brown people, Asian people. The message is going to get through."