ENCINITAS — In an effort to rally support behind citizens’ ongoing demonstrations against police brutality, North County politicians, activists and families attended Black Lives Matter protests over the past weekend at the Magic Carpet Ride sculpture and Cardiff State Beach in Encinitas.
Both protests on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon attracted hundreds of individuals. And though the separate events celebrated the same message — Black Lives Matter — each gathering brought out distinctly different groups of people.
Several regional and city leaders attended the event on Friday evening, including Congressman Mike Levin, Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Encinitas Councilwoman Kelli Hinze.
The pop-up memorial for George Floyd, who died while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, has adorned the iconic “Cardiff Kook” statue since May 30.
“To protest is patriotic,” Levin told the crowd. “Millions of Americans who are peacefully protesting across our nation have every right to express their frustration over the unequal economic and criminal justice systems in this country.
“If our democracy is to survive, we must guarantee the right to assemble, guarantee the right to be heard and not worry about rubber bullets and tear gas when we do it.”
Blakespear encouraged the crowd to turn their peaceful activism into action and challenged the group to take the next step.
“We have to change the conditions that lead us to this reality,” Blakespear said. “All of us have a place in [this] and it’s up to every single one of us to act. Let’s commit today. Let’s do more. Let’s do better.”
Blakespear encouraged the members of the group to register to vote at a nearby table.
Boerner Horvath said the issue is not limited to police brutality, but also extends to inequitable healthcare, education, as well as criminal justice and prison systems.
“We have a systemic crisis,” Boerner Horvath said. “[Voters] want change and… we need to hear your voices.”
Hinze, who assisted Black Lives Matter organizer Mali Woods-Drake in setting up the memorial a week prior, also addressed the crowd.
“Your presence here tonight reaffirms that we will not un-see the police brutality and systemic injustices that take black lives,” Hinze said. “We are responsible to the young people here. I am so inspired. You are not future activists. You are today’s activists and today’s leaders.”
Each speaker discussed the importance of voting in November, urging people to register and volunteer in the month before the general elections.
Monica Gruninger, who identified herself as a young Cuban American, went to Friday’s event after attending a full week of peaceful protests. Gruninger called upon both elected officials and local police stations to voice their support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Every call matters,” Gruninger said. “One more call could be the one that pushes them over the edge so it’s so important. I really can’t sit still. I can’t sit at home. The only thing that makes me feel better is coming out and doing these things… showing my support and my solidarity.”
Long after the elected officials left the event for the evening, protesters continued to hold signs and cheer passing vehicles.
On Sunday, Black Lives Matter organized a paddle out at Cardiff beach, attracting a demographic that had yet to attend any peaceful protests en masse — families with small children.
Organizers provided paint and brushes for children to make signs of their own, and multiple speakers highlighted the experiences of North County families of color. The event also featured a large group sing-a-long of “Lean on Me.”
As the smallest children played on the beach, adult participants paddled out to honor the memory of Floyd.
Jessica and Dante Pride, attorneys representing Leslie Furcron, a protester shot between the eyes with a nonlethal bullet by San Diego police officers, helped organize Sunday’s event.
“It’s important that kids see parents standing up so that when they go back to the playground or a soccer field and they hear another child making fun of someone for the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the religion they practice… they remember this day and that teaching moment,” Pride said.
“I’m happy our community got to hear from different voices than they would normally hear from,” Pride said. “In order to have empathy and to understand somebody else’s perspective… and break down these barriers of racism, you have to have all people at the table and all voices need to be heard.”
For more protest coverage, please check out the latest episode of The North County Beat podcast. Hosts Kelli Kyle and Ryan Woldt speak with reporter Caitlin Steinberg about the protests in Encinitas.