Despite taking place on a Monday morning, the lot in front of Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid was packed with around 100 cars by 8:30 a.m. Protestors stood alongside their vehicles writing messages on their windows calling for justice and taped handmade signs to their cars.
Black Lives Matter Long Beach, who have been active champions in the community for over a decade, organizers led this caravan of hundreds of participants from Long Beach to Los Angeles to honor George Floyd and all victims of police brutality, followed by a funeral service and protest in Downtown L.A.
Virgilio Manalo, a fourth-year accounting and information systems major, drove a car with the sign “Asians for Black Lives” plastered to the side.
Manalo said that cross-cultural support is critical for causes like Black Lives Matter, not just to show support but also to unravel internalized racism in his own community.
“Coming from an immigrant family, one of the biggest things they emphasized was assimilation,” Manalo said. “But as I grew up more, as I learned more, I saw how it affects internalized racism.”
Jonathan Polk, funeral director of Destiny Funeral Home in Long Beach, provided one of the hearses to carry the coffins that served as the centerpieces for the rally.
Polk explained the symbolism of the coffins, saying “it symbolizes every black person who has been killed senselessly by the police. It’s not anyone specific.”
He said that it was the brutality of the murder of George Floyd that made it such an effective catalyst for civil unrest.
“It’s not like the typical, where you hear about the police shooting them in the back,” Polk said. “We all saw the video where the cop has his knee on his neck… he watched the life drain from this man as he called out for his mother. People are tired of it.”
Polk said that the increased presence of non-black protesters at the event was due to the realization that police brutality can affect anyone.
“They realize that if it can happen to a black person it can happen to a Latino, it can happen to an Asian, it can even happen to a caucasian brother or sister,” Polk said.
Frances Haywood, a participant in the caravan, said she was “overwhelmed” seeing the amount of protestors showing up across the world, comparing current protests to a Kansas City sit-in she participated in with just five other black teenagers 60 years ago.
“Just to see the array of people, I truly, truly have hope that something’s going to change,” Haywood said. “It’s like the world is finally understanding.”
As the caravan departed from Long Beach, they picked up more participants along the drive. From there, caravanners then attended a rally that included several musicians, speakers and people offering blessings.
The group then took to Los Angeles City Hall, where protestors demanded the police be defunded and to reallocate those funds in favor of education and support of oppressed groups.
“I just felt like [attending a protest] was kind of a no-brainer,” said Micaela Niecen, Long Beach State alumna and participant in the caravan. “I just kept feeling like I should be out there.”
Many participants in the caravan felt more compelled to partake in the protest knowing they could remain in their cars. Several had health and safety concerns, ranging from coronavirus fears to preexisting conditions such as a bad leg.
A wide range of protestors were in attendance, including former CSULB students, veterans and people with religious affiliations.
“Being a veteran, we stand for accountability, and I just don’t see it with the police,” said Black Lives Matter supporter Nathan Crawford. “Police officers, they’re getting away with everything.”
Crawford said although many people assume he is right-wing simply because he is a veteran, he “bleeds blue.”
“I feel like [the support] is also reaching out to different parts of the country that we would never have dreamed of,” Crawford said, referring to states that are typically more conservative.
Protestors march on city hall pic.twitter.com/YOmoyWIkUe
— Perry Continente (@PerryContinente) June 8, 2020
Despite broad unity and support from diverse groups, one protester, who wanted to be identified as D. Bostic, took issue with some white participants who were standing away from the group.
Bostic said that their guarded body language was offensive and disrespectful to the movement.
“If you were truly here to truly address the issue, you would approach me,” he said. “We are trying to come together, why would you want to be apart? How can I trust that?”
Bostic said that he didn’t think that the pandemic was the cause of the largely white contingent standing away from the crowd.
“That’s got nothing to do with the coronavirus over there, it has everything to do with white supremacy,” Bostic said.
Porsche Taylor, a participant in the caravan, rode in a bright purple sports car with “Black Lives Matter” written across the windshield.
“The reason I’m here today is because I want to draw some attention to this,” Taylor said, referring to why she brought her flashy vehicle. “I want to keep this in the forefront of the national conversation.”
Taylor, who has a motorcycle magazine called Black Girls Ride, felt the caravan organized by BLM strongly resonated with her and her core beliefs.
“Between the virus and everything else, America is really sick right now,” Taylor said. “You know, we got some mental health issues and we’ve got some physical health issues, and we need to figure out how to fix this. This is a good start.”