ENCINITAS — As turmoil and civil unrest continue to grip the country over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators gathered for a vigil at a Black Lives Matter memorial at the Magic Carpet Ride sculpture on May 31 in Encinitas.
Many of those in attendance brought homemade signs and chanted, “Black Lives Matter.” At one point during the vigil, the group held a moment of silence to read aloud a list of African American citizens who have been killed while in police custody.
San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies monitored the site while taking breaks to speak with protesters and engage in conversations, sharing their own stories from the front lines of this past weekend’s protests.
According to organizer and Encinitas resident Mali Woods-Drake, the protest originally began on May 30 as a public art installation, “a place for [the] community to come mourn, to take action, to remember, and to look in the mirror and see their own role, their own white privilege.”
Within 40 minutes of the exhibit’s installation, a local businesswoman violently ripped down several posters and screamed at the protestors, alleging the nationwide protests were organized by billionaire George Soros, a popular conspiracy theory. A video of the incident quickly circulated on local social media. Several people in attendance helped to resurrect the memorial.
“We were just beside ourselves,” Woods-Drake said. “We began brainstorming how to put the memorial back up but recognized it could be easily ripped down again, so we decided to invite the whole community to come together for a vigil that next night at the statue.”
“The combination of people already feeling heartbroken with seeing that woman’s hate in their own community really fueled people to peacefully come together.”
After her call-to-action had circulated social media pages, Sheriff’s deputies reached out to Woods-Drake inquiring about the nature and intent of the protest.
“They called me and told me they planned on being present to ensure our safety and they were,” Woods-Drake said. “When [the officer] got there he introduced himself, got back in his car, and just watched the whole time. He was peaceful.”
On Monday, Lt. Amber Baggs of the Sheriff’s department commented on law enforcement’s presence at the protest.
“We were aware of the incident the night before and we just wanted to ensure this group was allowed to accomplish their goal, to hold this vigil safely,” Baggs said. “People are allowed to protest so no law enforcement was necessary because it was peaceful in support of Mr. Floyd.”
Solana Beach resident Mazen Idriss arrived at the memorial on Monday afternoon holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign and recounted a positive interaction he had with a sheriff’s deputy just minutes after arriving at the memorial.
“[The deputy] was really chill,” Idriss said. “He was just checking in because of the riots last night, telling me how he was bleeding after it himself. I said it would be really sick if he stuck around and held up a sign with me, but he said his supervisor might not like that too much.”
The memorial and vigil for Floyd in Encinitas followed a tumultuous weekend filled with both peaceful demonstrations and destructive protests in cities across the country.
In San Diego County, numerous incidents of looting and arson have left businesses and public property destroyed, resulting in 100 arrests on charges that include a failure to disperse, burglary, assaulting officers and vandalism, according to law enforcement reports.
In Escondido, roughly two dozen protesters gathered across the street from the Escondido Police Department headquarters on Centre City Parkway in the late afternoon, EPD Lt. Mark Petersen said. The demonstrators were peaceful as they held signs, chanted slogans and called out to passers-by, Petersen reported.
Approximately 50 to 75 protesters also gathered on the corner of Twin Oaks Valley Road and Craven Drive near Cal State University campus in San Marcos on Monday evening, holding signs and receiving honks of support from passing vehicles.
In Encinitas, Woods-Drake said the memorial surrounding Cardiff’s iconic statue will remain in place this week, providing a safe place for people to voice their concerns of police violence against African Americans.
“We’ll be there every night this week, peacefully protesting and reading aloud the names at 7 pm,” Woods-Drake said. “We’re committed.”
This article includes some information from wire reports.