One day shy of a month after their first march to Temecula City Hall, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement again turned out to march the same route, albeit in smaller numbers.
And the demonstrators made clear they are still very committed to their movement, 40 days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis caused an outcry that spread not just across the country, but across the globe.
“We’re gonna be here today, we’re gonna be here tomorrow, we’re gonna be here a month from now, a year from now,” one of the protest organizers, Amir-Hassan Gates, told fellow protesters after the march had arrived at Temecula City Hall. “The unit that you see here on this stage will not (be dismantled), unless they physically take us apart.”
Coronavirus, though, meant that expression was necessarily a figurative one.
Gates told Valley News the latest march will be the last one, for now.
“We have prepared this to be the last march until we are 100% certain that (health orders have) been uplifted or there’s no second wave that’s supposed to hit,” Gates told Valley News.
While hundreds of protesters marched to City Hall on June 5, perhaps a couple hundred did the same on July 4. It’s impossible to say how many of those who did not show up did so out of concern for contracting COVID-19, but with cases spiking in Riverside County and other parts of Southern California, it’s a possibility the organizers had prepared for.
“We were already assuming that the turnout would be very low due to the fact that COVID has had a very powerful impact,” Gates said. “But today, actually, we had a lot more than we expected.”
Coronavirus was clearly a concern even on the minds of those who did show up to the protest. The majority of protesters, though not all, already wore masks at previous demonstrations. At the July 4 event, mask usage was virtually universal, and organizers even asked a protester who said he works as an EMT to share information on mask usage with the group.
“Everybody here is well-aware of the precautions and the measures that are being taken,” one of the organizers, Mariah Banda, said.
They also encouraged demonstrators to distance themselves from one another to the extent possible.
While police monitored the protest nearby, and despite a handful of shouted expletives from passing motorists, the march remained entirely peaceful.
Gates said while in-person marches might not happen again for awhile, the group that has organized the Duck Pond protests will continue to spread the word about their movement in other ways.
“Within the next few months we plan on working with the city, we plan on having a lot of virtual events, a lot of virtual activities where people can join in,” Gates said, saying his group also planned to keep in touch with protesters through zoom calls and other forms of virtual meetings.
“We might have to be at home again for a stay at home order, but that doesn’t mean we’re gonna stop,” Gates said.
That was a sentiment shared by other protesters.
“I’m a Black woman, and the thing is, is that this is real life for a lot of us,” Tatiana Sears, one of the protesters, said. “I just graduated college, with my associate’s. I have to go and I have to figure out, are these people gonna hire me? When I walk in, I’m automatically the Blackest person in the room.”
Banda also said racism isn’t an issue that will go away, and so neither will the protesters.
“We’re not gonna stop. We will not stop,” Banda said. “We just want to end racism and hate.”
And Gates said he had a simple message for those who remain skeptical of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I love you,” Gates said. “I still have love for you, whether you’re with us, whether you’re not.”
Will Fritz can be reached by email at email@example.com.