Students, faculty and activist groups gathered at Recreation Park Tuesday afternoon to call for the defunding of the Long Beach Police Department in light of the city council preparing to pass the 2021 fiscal year budget.
Receiving approximately 44% of the city’s general fund budget, the LBPD is the most funded organization in the city, topping fire and rescue by nearly 30%.
“We are here because people were murdered and accountability is necessary,” said Sheila Bates, Black Lives Matter Long Beach organizer. “And either or you’re against us, and you don’t wanna be against us.”
Eleanor Nicklin, first-year photography major, is from Orange County but sees the problem of overfunding police departments as a borderless issue.
“The police departments are getting way more money than they need,” Nicklin said. “We need to be taking those funds from defunding the police and putting it towards social issues like homlessness, drug addiction and mental health.”
Beginning at Recreation Park, People’s Budget Coalition and Black Lives Matter Long Beach led the group of roughly 75 participants in the streets alongside the park, passing by golfers, pedestrians and several moving vehicles.
Along the route, the group paused to demonstrate in front of Councilmember Suzie Price’s home. Price, who also serves as district attorney for Orange County, has been criticized for her support of the police department.
As part of the demonstration, participants laid down make-shift coffins that “pallbearers” had been carrying, representing the deceased who were killed by LBPD officers.
Amber VanBuskirk, third-year psychology major, said she came to the rally to show support for her community.
“All black lives are important and I want people to know,” Vanbuskirk said. “I think a sense of community is a really big thing just knowing there there are a lot of people standing with us and it can feel really lonely, and when doing something like this you see that that’s not the case. We all are standing together and it’s something people should pay attention to.”
From there, the peaceful protest made its way into the flow of traffic on Seventh Street, stopping at the intersection of Bellflower Boulevard and Seventh Street to chant in solidarity with victims of police brutality. There, they were met with opposition.
Local activists, Long Beach State students and faculty members are beginning to gather at Recreation Park to participate in the People’s Budget Coalition march, calling for an end to police violence. pic.twitter.com/n6GAeQaXze
— Daily 49er 📰🦈 (@daily49er) September 8, 2020
A man apparently upset with the disruption in traffic pulled out from his lane and began to roll toward the group, when he was stopped by a security marshal affiliated with the organization. The marshall knelt before the car, which stopped the man from moving forward in his vehicle. The confrontation ultimately diffused after the group moved on from the intersection.
An altercation at the intersection of 7th and PCH just occurred between a motorist and a security officer. pic.twitter.com/Ic4c4yRX8c
— Daily 49er 📰🦈 (@daily49er) September 9, 2020
Coinciding with the first day of #ScholarStrike, a national movement to pause regular instruction and instead take time to reflect and educate on racism and racial violence in America, the march welcomed professors like Elizabeth Dahab, professor of comparative literature at CSULB, who said she hopes funds taken from the LBPD can be used to further education for all.
“[I want to] bring more awareness about race relations,” Dahab said. “And to spend a lot of time studying the history of indegenous history and the history of African Americans and eradicate the suffering that has happened.”
Lou Rosen, who graduated from Long Beach State in 2019 with a degree in music composition, participated in the march on behalf of LB Strong, an organization campaigning to recall Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
“We’ve seen a lot of words and a lot of promises coming out of the mayor and the rest of the city government, but we’ve seen very little action actually being taken as a result of that,” Rosen said. “[Garcia] talks a big game as a progressive, you know he got to do his whole speech at the DNC and everything, but when it comes down to actually showing up for the people of Long Beach, he isn’t there.”
The march came to a close back at Recreation Park, where Bates led the group in Assata Shakur, a spiritual ceremony commonly used to end Black Lives Matter events.
Madalyn Amato, editor in chief, contributed to this article.