Jeff Pack
Staff Writer

Lamar and Kira Hooper were standing along the fence line at the Temecula Duck Pond on Saturday morning with their two young children, wearing masks and chanting along with the throngs of people who came out to protest police brutality in America. 

The couple said they were there to show their children the power of protest. 

“I am shocked that a predominantly white community would do something like this,” Lamar said. “I’m surprised about the support.”

A mother and daughter lead the chants during a protest on Saturday denouncing the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while under arrest last week. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

“I’m just excited that this is a big turnout for the youth,” Kira said. “They are showing that youth speak when they come in numbers. I’m just glad all the youth are coming out in support, standing up and speaking up for what they believe in. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The couple’s young son, Xavier was emotional in being there and also wanted to speak.

“I just want equality,” he said. “Justice for George Floyd, I don’t think he deserved to die on that day, and yeah, I just want justice.”

Crowds as large as 400 on Saturday converged on the Temecula Duck Pond to protest systemic police brutality and the death of George Floyd earlier in the week in Minnesota.

A protester makes a sign at the Temecula Duck Pond during a protest denouncing the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while under arrest last week. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

Floyd’s death was caught in a video showing Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressing a knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes during an arrest.

After the video went viral and Floyd’s death, Chauvin and three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department a day later. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested and was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Protests against police brutality started in Minnesota and have surfaced in major metropolitan cities around the country. The issue of the protests has become polarizing with the American public because of looting and rioting taking place in some cities.

Protesters hold up signs and chant during a protest on Saturday denouncing the death of Minnesotan George Floyd while under arrest last week. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

While there was no such activity reported during the protests in Temecula, six people were arrested, and Riverside County Sheriff’s ultimately deemed the protest an “unlawful gathering.”

In a statement posted to social media on Sunday morning, Sheriff Chad Bianco referred to the protests as a “peaceful rally.”

According to the majority of the people who actually attended the protest, they felt the protest was passionate and emotional, but a positive experience. 

Camille Lowe said she was driving by the protest and tears came to her eyes. So, she had to get out and join.

A protestor holds up a sign and a raised fist during the Saturday protest at the Temecula Duck Pond. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

“The community has come together for this,” she said. “It’s a good thing to show that not all places are bad and not all people are against other races. It’s good to see everyone standing up for humanity.”

Melvin and Michelle Brewster were standing in the thick of the protests and were marveling at the turnout. 

“It’s uplifting to be a part of something like going on here in Temecula,” Melvin said as he got emotional. “The wife and I have been having serious conversations for years now about these types of issues. This is something that we need. And not just to be part of this demonstration, but actually try and make some change to let people know that this can’t continue to go on. We’re not talking about one race, we’re talking about all people.”

“I think it’s encouraging to see people of all races here because I think especially for the black community who feel alone, they see all races out here participating, you feel like maybe change can actually happen,” Michelle added.

A line of protestors kneel in the crosswalk in front of a line of Riverside County Sheriff’s during the Saturday protest at the Temecula Duck Pond. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Kevin Debouse said. “I came out just because I was interested in seeing this kind of support against racial injustice. I got here and this whole situation brought me to tears, literally brought me to tears. 

“Along with everybody else, I’ve been commenting on all the things that have been going on and about what America really is. I got here and I got a chance to see that this is also America and I needed to see that. I had no idea how much I needed to see it, but I needed to see it. This will get me through tomorrow, I don’t know much further, but this will get me through tomorrow.”

Lakyra Pharms said she is originally from Indiana and it was different to see the type of protest she was attending in Temecula.

A protester records the scene as he holds a sign and walks in lanes of traffic on Rancho California Road on Saturday. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

“To come from somewhere where you feel like a lot of the system is built up against you, and you come here and see this outpouring from such a diverse crowd, this is crazy,” she said. “I was just out here walking and I came up on this and it just blew my mind. 

“I’m not out here screaming with all of it, but I definitely feel all of it, because this is something I’ve never seen before and it’s blowing my mind to see all these people that are saying black lives matter and they are standing up for someone they don’t even know. This one guy that they don’t even know and it moved everybody to come out here and demand justice.”

Dave and Leann Gaffney were watching the protest from the outer ridges. 

“We’re just supporting, it’s time for a change in this country,” Leann said. 

“I think it’s good that the kids are out here and they are going to be ones that make a change,” Dave added. “What happened (to Floyd) was ruthless, just a sad, sad day in America.”

Tamika Bray and a friend who didn’t want to give her name because it could affect her employment were soaking in the emotion of the event. 

“It is a blessing, it’s been a long time coming,” Tamika said. “We’ve been here for 27 years, a long time. This is the first time I’ve seen something like this and I’m grateful because they’re showing that our lives matter. 

“It’s emotional, I’m in awe, I love the support of the community because the community reflects us, we’re part of the community,” her friend said. “All different colors, this is a reflection of all of us. It’s not just a black thing, it’s an everybody thing. When something happens to one person, it affects the entire community, not just the one person and this shows that.”

Temecula’s Joy Watkins couldn’t sit by and watch while people were out fighting against injustice, she said. 

“I am the mother of two African American young sons and a stepmom to one and I have a daughter also, and a whole host of my sons’ friends, young men that are afraid for their lives,” she said. “I’m their mom too. I’m here for every young black American, not just my kids, all the people of color that have to go through this. 

“It’s so unfair and it’s so sad and I felt like I needed to get out of my house and do something instead of sitting on Facebook or social media. We have to do something to make a change, we cannot sit at home and push buttons.

“I’m here for everybody that’s been done wrong, that’s been treated wrong. I am the first one to stand up and say that’s not right, let’s do something about it. This is a wonderful thing and I had to be a part of it.”

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.