Thousands of demonstrators caravaned through the streets of Pasadena Tuesday, June 2 to protest and hold a vigil after the unjust murder of George Floyd by Minneappolis police officers, forming a united call for justice and demanding actions of change from the inner city government.
The peaceful protest was organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Pasadena Branch, alongside with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, faith leaders from the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and the Community Clergy Coalition.
The late afternoon protest began with a vehicular caravan — to practice physical distancing — from First AME Church on north Raymond Avenue, and made its way to City Hall. The long line of cars clogged the streets, and traffic moved slowly as even more squeezed into the leading caravan from the side streets of the city. Car horns honked endlessly throughout the streets, with drivers demonstrating raised fists in the air — a symbol of their solidarity and support. Cars continued to pour in well after the event’s kick off at 5 p.m., later breaching the 6 p.m. curfew.
“Let’s have our protest be legitimate, and let’s make sure that the political class and the police understand that they have to make changes,” said Co-director of the National Day Laborer Organization Pablo Alvarado. “Today we protest, today we are here! But we are going to come back with a very strong list of changes that we want to see here in this city, and we are not going to back down until Black lives are protected in our city…until we are all equal,”
Protesters and organizers chanted the phrases “Black Lives Matter,” “No justice, no peace,” “Say his name — George Floyd! Say her name — Breonna Taylor!” repeatedly, to create a sense of community in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Esperanza Terrell of Pasadena was the first of three women speakers of the evening, sharing spoken word poetry to the crowd of thousands at the steps of City Hall.
“I am the daughter, and the grandchild, and the great grandchild of Black people who had to flee the south because they were protecting their families from terrorists groups, from white men who believed it was their right to snuff out [my family’s] life at any moment…to prove their strength and their power,” she said.
Terrell’s descriptions of her family’s history with racism and white supremacy were echoed by many others at Tuesday evening’s gathering, including Robert Grant, who stood up and described his experiences representing Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
“For a week I’ve been crying, just angry, because I say to myself ‘somebody can be out [in the world] because of his blackness and get his life taken away,’” Grant stated.
In a compelling message dedicated to his grandson, addressing him as “Sr.,” Grant reminded him that the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brothers that stood behind him would be the men he could count on to be protected.
“These [Alpha Phi Alpha] men will do anything to make sure that whatever your dream is, or wherever you want to go, they are going to help get you there…and that’s Alpha!” he said. “But if I die, it doesn’t matter Sr. If [the Alpha Phi Alpha men] die, it doesn’t matter Sr. because we’ve got a world of people that know that your life matters above anything else!”
Allen Edson, President of the NAACP branch of Pasadena, called on City Council members for an expedited release of the police department’s body camera footage. Edson also asked those in attendance to contact the mayor and their local council representatives and urge them to revise the local use of force policies to curtail resorting to deadly force.
“Our problem right now is not people outside of California. Our problem right now is not people outside of Pasadena. Our problem is right here because we cannot change the world if we do not first change Pasadena,” said activist Brandon Lamar.
Protests around the City of Pasadena continue to take place on a weekly basis, and the fight for equality, law abiding change, and justice for neighboring Black communities has no near end in sight.
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