High school students lead hundreds in protest of police violence, racism
Cabrillo Boulevard ground to a halt on Sunday afternoon, as local high school students led hundreds through the streets in protest of police violence and institutional racism.
San Marcos High School students Talia Hamilton and Shakir Ahmad organized the protest on the street in front of Stearns Wharf. Santa Barbara Police Department officers blocked off the area around the intersection of Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street.
Event organizers made sure that student voices were at the center of the protest and students used that platform to tell the crowd about their experiences of racism and how George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests affected them.
“It’s time for change. As young students we are hopeful for the world. We must educate ourselves because as Nelson Mandela once said, ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’” Dos Pueblos Junior Cole Collins said.
Cole asked the crowd to let peace begin with each of them.
“America was built on tradition and some of them are weakening the foundation of the nation, so we must end this 400-year-old tradition which is racism and we can do our part by educating ourselves, by informing others and by yes, protesting,” Cole said.
He recognized that Mr. Floyd was the most recent victim of police violence, but not the first.
“This (protest) is also for Trayvon Martin, 17 years old, unarmed and killed. Breonna Taylor, 26 years old, asleep, and shot eight times. Tamir Rice, 12 years old not, even given a chance to put his pellet gun down, and Tatiana Jefferson, 28 years old killed, within milliseconds of being told to put her hands up,” Cole said.
He asked the crowd to let peace begin with each of them and to work to change their own views on racial issues and the views of those around them.
Recent San Marcos graduate Lucas Flores-Piña said he is tired of having to conform to a white definition of manhood.
“From the age of 12, I’ve had teacher’s aides fear me and perceive me as a threat. At 14, I was called a ‘bean’ by my own teacher in the classroom and I had to swallow my pride and sit down and say ‘that’s racist’ while the whole class erupted. When I walk home from work, you see me and you make a conscious effort to walk across the street… I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t want to steal anything, I don’t want your car, I don’t want your purse, I’m a human being and those sub-conscious acts make me feel like less than a man. I’m not a monster,” Mr. Flores-Piña said.
He explained that while Santa Barbara appears to be a picturesque tourist escape, Spanish conquerors built it “with racism on the backs of the native people.”
Mr. Flores-Piña argued that the Santa Barbara Mission is a “monument to slavery,” and that Old Spanish Days is a celebration of that historical injustice. He continued that he loves Santa Barbara and its people, but lamented a movement for racial equity has taken too long.
Singer Miriam Dance opened the protest with a rendition of “Lean on Me.” She also performed an original untitled song.
“You will stop killing us, we are so furious. You won’t get our trust, the system that’s broken was never for us,” she sang.
The protesters marched from Cabrillo Boulevard to the Santa Barbara Police Department headquarters on East Figueroa Street, then to the Santa Barbara Unified School District building on Anacapa Street. Some officers kneeled with the protesters at the police station.