CARLSBAD — For three days, thousands took to the streets of Carlsbad to protest and join the black lives movement in solidarity after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
Organized by Sierra Gonzalez and Jaelyn Freeman, a recent graduate of California State University San Marcos, the protestors marched down from the intersection of Carlsbad Boulevard and Carlsbad Village Drive to Cannon Park on June 5, June 6 and June 7.
At the park, black men and women spoke about their experiences with racism, discrimination, police brutality and intimidation. Students of color who graduated from Carlsbad High School spoke about hearing racial slurs from classmates as they walked the halls.
On June 7, Freeman changed up the programming by breaking the protestors into groups of about 10, so each could make a connection with others in their group.
During the marches, protestors chanted “No justice, No peace,” “Defund the police,” “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Carlsbad police, meanwhile, escorted the protestors to Cannon Park and very few officers took up positions in the park.
“It’s because you would never expect somebody like either of us to organize anything like this in Carlsbad,” Freeman said of how the Carlsbad protest came to be. “I think it’s important for people in Carlsbad to hear black voices, see black people and hear what we have to say. I think it was extremely important for us to come here and speak, specifically, because these are the spaces in which it needs to be heard the most.”
For Gonzalez, a Carlsbad native who now lives in Portland, Ore., the protests have a deep connection, as she said her partner’s cousin was killed by the same officer, Derek Chauvin, on White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. She said the protest and speakers were important to bring all walks of life in the city together.
In addition, the message from the speakers and movement needed to heard in a predominantly white city so people of all backgrounds can come together and learn from those who have been victims of racism and discrimination.
“I’m scared as hell,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve been very scared. In terms of changes, or solutions … it’s my turn to go in and do it. It’s all about systematic change. People may have good intentions, but that doesn’t matter when the overarching system is still oppressing those forces.”
One speaker, who has retired to Carlsbad, described his time as a firefighter for Los Angeles County. He recalled a day he was driving to Malibu for work and was pulled over.
He said as a boy, his parents had to teach him how to speak to the police and things to do, such as put his wallet on the dashboard, keep his hands on the steering wheel and keep the windows rolled up until they asked.
He was questioned hard, the man said, all while wearing his uniform and badge. He said his white counterparts had never experienced such a line of questioning.
Others, such as Peter Swaniker, said it’s difficult to let his son, who spoke at the rally, to go out with friends as Swaniker is worried his son will be profiled.
“What is happening is something that’s been happening for hundreds of years,” Swaniker said. “It’s time for people who want justice to push for change. It’s been stressful for all of us. The fact is 99% of people who are out here are not looting or rioting. To focus on that, it’s really part of the problem.
“We shouldn’t have to live in fear,” he added. “Fear begets desperation, desperation begets anger and anger begets disruption. If you’ve put your knee on somebody’s neck for 400 years, there’s anger.”
Freeman said the solutions are systematic and engrained in society, institutions and those changes will come from city, county, state and federal policies. She lived in the United Kingdom for 10 years before coming back home for college.
In the U.K., police officers do not have firearms, so when Freeman returned to the U.S., it was a shock, she said.
In Carlsbad village, many businesses along State Street boarded up their businesses fearful the protest would turn violent. On June 4, Carlsbad and Oceanside police were alerted to a potential threat from a young man on Instagram claiming to be organizing a “gun squad” and urging others to come with various weapons.
Carlsbad police reported no incidents related to the protests and an active investigation is ongoing into the man who threatened the protestors.