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Story and photos by Briana Gomez

The Racial Justice Coalition, in collaboration with the #icantbreathecampaign led a peaceful motorcade protest with many other organizations including the Black Panthers to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s home Saturday morning. The caravan followed the police brutality incident in Minnesota caught on video, in which George Floyd, an African-American man, was killed by a white officer who applied a controversial chokehold for over eight minutes, despite Floyd pleading “I can’t breathe.” The officer has been charged with murder. Three other officers present have been fired,  but have thus far not been charged.  

“This event is in response to the event in Minneapolis with George Floyd, but not only that. We’ve been fighting the neck restraint in San Diego since 2017,” Yusef Miller, one of the event organizers and a community activist, told ECM.

There have been numerous incidents of police choking people in San Diego and Orange County.

We’ve had Robert Branch, we’ve had Desiree Smith and her son, Erik Smith, and also in Orange County we had a loss of life of Mr. Venezuela,” Miller (photo, right) said. “They use the carotid restraint here. We know that on paper the carotid restraint is different from the chokehold, law enforcement keeps bringing this up, but when a person struggles the carotid restraint becomes the chokehold immediately, so we’re saying ban all neck restraints.”

Protesters met at Liberty Station at 11 am and after a debriefing, they were instructed to join a Zoom conference call where leaders would instruct them during the motorcade and assist anyone who was lost, stuck, or encountered potential issues with law enforcement.

Protesters of extremely diverse ethnicities and backgrounds joined the protest.

Miller believes it’s important to have many communities come together.

“This thing that affects any group of us whether it’s African American or Latinx community, it affects all of us. We need everybody to show up and lend their voice even if they’re not a direct-affected community,” Miller stated.

Lizzie Hynix, a grassroots organizer, attended the event as an individual with some friends.

While Hynix hasn’t personally experienced any police brutality, she feels it’s important to collaborate as a community regardless of race to gain strength and so that people in positions of power will listen to the community.

“I attribute that to my race,” Hynix said, referring to the fact that law enforcement has never harassed her.

She added that as a white woman she makes sure to have in-depth conversations with other white people about the struggles of people of color in order to use her privilege to spread the word and give people in her community a different perspective.

“When I hear people of color speak, I share what they say with other white people,” said Hynix. These other individuals may not have otherwise heard the same message. Hynix feels it’s important to listen and to share information accordingly.

Jack Shu (photo, right), an Asian-American who usually protests with other Unitarian Universalists, attended this event alone. He came to support this protest and also to let protesters know of another protest in La Mesa the same day.

In La Mesa, there was a recent confrontation between a black man and a La Mesa police officer.

The City of La Mesa has announced that they are opening an outside investigation into a police officer seen using excessive force against a Black civilian in a widely-circulated video this week. The officer is being placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“A young man was arrested and charged only with resisting arrest and assault on an officer. Those are always suspicious charges. Why was the officer in contact with him in the first place?” asked Shu.

Shu announced the La Mesa protest and many expressed interest in the situation.

The group was instructed to enter their vehicles and put on their emergency lights to differentiate themselves from other drivers. The motorcade left liberty station toward Mayor Faulconer’s Point Loma residence ,where they made three circles in an orderly fashion.

Law enforcement had been informed of the event and formed a small blockade to his residence.

Neighbors stood with their fists up in solidarity of the protest.

Some individuals exited their vehicles with signs, while one of the organizers spoke powerfully to law enforcement, saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Photo, left: Desiree Smith, mother of teen on whom San DIego Police used a chokehold, wears red "I can't breathe"  T--shirt at protest as neighbor takes photos.


Briana Gomez holds an MBA from the University of La Verne and a Bachelor of Science in International Business from Azusa Pacific University. A freelance journalist, she is originally from La Mesa and lived in Japan for five years in her youth. She later took an interest in travelling and learning about global cultures and cultural identities  She taught English in Hungary in 2013 before obtaining her master’s degree, then returning to the U.S.  to pursue journalism and research multicultural communication.

Gomez has written for online and local publications in Budapest and in her native San Diego, including coverage in East County Magazine on multicultural communities. She is passionate about human rights and minority issues, bringing awareness to ethnic groups in our region. She also sits on the committee for the Arab and Muslim Community Coalition and is an active member of the San Diego Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and San Diego House of Lebanon. 

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