Black community members call out police violence, racism during peaceful Santa Barbara rally
Hundreds of community members of all races packed the Courthouse Sunken Garden on Sunday afternoon to decry police violence across the country and demand accountability from local law enforcement.
Black Lives Matter Santa Barbara and Juneteenth Santa Barbara hosted the protest to provide a space for local black community members to mourn the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and speak out against police violence and the erasure of local black history.
On May 25, Mr. Floyd, a black man, died while being detained by police in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to a video of the incident, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, pinned Mr. Floyd on the ground and put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.
While the incident has sparked riots and looting across the country, local protesters raised only their voices.
“We are here today as black women who love black people,” an event organizer said.
“We intentionally centered our speakers around black folks especially black women because we know how often our deaths are erased. We were intentional about inviting our non-black folks of color who support us because we understand that our liberation is linked,” she said.
Some attendees carried protest signs supporting Black Lives Matter and with messages urging others to speak out against police violence.
“If you have the luxury of breath, you better shout,” read one. “If you can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” and “In a racist society it is not enough to be not-racist, you must be anti-racist,” read two other signs. Some signs carried anti-police messages.
Event organizers published a list of demands from the local black community to Santa Barbara City Council and Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors including: transparency and accountability from the Santa Barbara Police Department and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office; protection and preservation of local black landmarks, “rather than monuments to white supremacy;” and “institutional support” for an annual Juneteenth celebration.
Juneteenth commemorates the day slaves were informed of their liberation from slavery.
“Today, I think a lot of folks forget that people of color, black folks, we been here. We been in this community five generations deep,” an event organizer who identified herself as Crystal said. She added that her parents and grandparents were born in Santa Barbara.
“Milpas was black folks, the Eastside was black folks, Haley that was black folks. We been here, we have history here and as a matter of fact they need to start teaching it in these K through 12,” she said.
“I share this because it’s been paining my grandparents to sit at home and see this is still happening. We forget MLK, he was shot, murdered, not too long ago. My grandparents were alive. They remember it, they remember how they felt, they remember the pain, and it is still happening today,” Crystal said.
Crystal continued that the Santa Barbara community has erased its local black history and lamented the closure of the first black baptist church in Santa Barbara because of bankruptcy.
“Second Baptist Church, it no longer exists because the community banks wouldn’t support it and then a slum lord came and took it,” Crystal said. She continued that church leaders put out newspaper and TV ads to save the church but the community did not support them.
Local activists including The Rev. David Moore, Santa Barbara City College Student Program Advisor Chelsea Lancaster and poet Sojourner Kincaid Rolle also addressed the crowd.
After the Sunken Garden event, protesters took to the streets. Then they laid on the ground at Anacapa Street and Figueroa street for eight minutes in honor of Mr. Floyd.
The Santa Barbara Police Department placed yellow tape across street poles to prevent the group from encroaching on the police headquarters on East Figueroa Street.
On Sunday afternoon, Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo released a statement on Mr. Floyd’s death.
“Over the weekend, cities across our nation have become flashpoints of civil unrest. Our local government stands in solidarity with those who choose the pre-ordained right to peacefully protest. To mend wounds, anger must eventually be channeled into introspection, education, and action right here at home,” Ms. Murillo said.
Similar protests were held in both Lompoc and Santa Maria on Sunday. During the Santa Maria protest, a large group of people marched along Broadway before congregating in the street in front of City Hall.
While the rally was being held, the Santa Maria Police Department took to Twitter to thank the community for keeping things peaceful.
“We know our community and we know we will get through this together. Thank you for your cooperation and support,” the department wrote in a tweet.