THOUSANDS MARCH FOR JUSTICE IN SANTEE ON SUNDAY

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By Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze

Photos, left and right, by Ryan Michael Darsey

Updated June 13, 2020 with additional quotes and photos.

June 8, 2020 (Santee) – Thousands of protesters held two peaceful marches and rallies Sunday in Santee to call for an end to racism and police violence.  The first kicked off near West Hills Park and proceeded to Santee Lakes. The second convened at the YMCA and marched to the Santee Sheriff’s station on Cuyamaca Street.

The first was organized by Santee residents Tasha Cassidy and Alana Ethridge, who told Patch.com that they wanted to promote “unity and diversity” to overcome “a stigma of Santee being racist.”

Far more marchers convened at the second march which began at the YMCA and ended outside the Sheriff’s station at Cuyamaca Street and Mission Gorge. Deputies stood guard, allowing marchers to proceed saetly down the nomrally busy street throught the shopping district. Many carried placards eading "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe" and other slogans.

At the Sheriff's station, speakers included 83-year-old Richard Lawrence, who marched in Selma, Alabama in 1965 with  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Lawrence told those assembled, “The tide has turned in this country,” adding, “If we stay on our feet and stay alive, we will see to it that the tide stays out on injustice.”

Photo, right by Jake Rose:  Richard Lawrence, 83 (in red hat), who marked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, speaks to crowd outside Santee Sheriff's station on Sunday.

The protesters then knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on the neck of George Floyd, who was black, until Floyd died. The officer, Derek Chauvin, is charged with murder and three other officers are charged with abetting murder. 

Photo, left by Paul Kruze: Protesters knelt for nearly nine minutes, the amount of time a Minnesota policeman knelt on George Floyd's neck.

The brutal killing of George Floyd has sparked national outrage and protests nationwide including smaller nightly protests in Santee over the past week, where some protesters faced racist taunts caught on video, had rocks thrown at them and have accused white racists of physically assaulting protesters. The white group includes some who came out to defend Santee businesses after looting in La Mesa and accused some young protesters of being would-be looters, though no evidence has been provided publicly to document any looting or attempted looting in Santee.

Ilka Weston, a San Diego mother and speaker,posted on Facebook that as the crowd knelt :”It didn’t take long for the tears to come. A man crying out that he can’t breathe. A man crying out for his mother…A man who had a police officer’s knee on his neck blocking breathing and blood flow while he kept his hands in his pockets and talked casually. This is the first incident. There have been thousands. And enough is enough.“

She called for the removal of Sheriff Bill Gore and San Diego’s police chief as well as President Donald Trump, adding, “We need to change those that we look to for guidance and that means everyone.”

Dave Myers, who previously ran against Sheriff Gore, also attended the rally. (photo, left) Though he has been critical of the Sheriff and outspoken against racism, he indicates he also opposes calls to defund police, instead supporting repurposing of some funds to demilitarize police departments.

San Diego Muslim Imam Taha Hassane expressed hope that after all the demonstrations end, the real work towards racial equality will take place. "I'm here to join my heart, my body, my mind, my voice, to everyone who is angry. Everyone who is looking for a real, authentic, genuine change," he said. The Algerian-born immigrant added that authentic change means dismantling "racism taht is part of this system."  But he worries that voices at the momentum could die after the marches, adding, "Real work should be organizing people to vote" to remove "racists, bigots; they are against everything deep in this nation, and replacing them with people who stand for what is really right."

Photographer Jake Rose told ECM that on Sunday, “There wasn’t anyone making a counter show of force, however there was a `Jesus’ group singing songs in the back that interrupted the speakrs, and at one point created a brief argument when a man in a green shirt playing guitar would not stop strumming during the kneeling,” interrupting what was intended to be a silent tribute to George Floyd. (Photo, right, by Jake Rose)

“A person asked him a few times to stop playing, and he just kept making noise with the guitar” as people began to kneel.”  After one of the `Jesus group’ rose and it appeared an altercation might ensue, Rose said, “someone pulled him back, and the m an with the guitar put his hands up in a sort of surrender.”

Rose said he also observed “about a dozen tough looking guys sitting in idling pickup trucks in the parking lots nearby, many of them filming the entire processing with their cell phones. Local told me they were there to jump in if anything went wrong, although there were already numerous police blocking off both sides of the street as well as a small SWAT team watching the crowd from the roof of the police station.”

A second photographer and blogger on Medium, Nadin Abbott, a former ECM reporter and former first responder, confirmed presence of the SWAT team andthe  disruptions by the group with Jesus shirts and a bright flag with the name Jesus.

At the conclusion of the rally, demonstrators sang "This Little Light of Mine" and placed hundred of flowers in a fence  in front of the station to honor George Floyd.

The Santee Sheriff station posted a photo on Twitter with a photo and thanking participants in the peaceful demonstrations (photo, below)

 

Photo, right by Nadin Abbott:  Large crowd outside Santee Sheriff station, looking back from out front of the station.

Photo, left, by Ryan Michael Darsey: Protester has a message for racists in the community.

Many larger businesses and banks along the demonstration route took precautions and boarded up front windows with plywood. Some, though boarded up, did business as usual including CVS,  and some smaller businesses. Most restaurants along the process were open. Others including Best Buy, Union Bank and Discount Tires were closed. 

Along the route, deputies reportedly stopped at a Target store where protesters encountered counter-protesters and some claiming they sought to defend local businesses. But unlike prior nights, no arrests were made, according to Patch.

As ECM has documented earlier in the week,  some protesters were arrested for not clearing out quickly enough after curfew, and a couple was arrested for brandishing a gun at “defenders” after some had taunted protesters with racial slurs and thrown rocks. Despite media interviews conducted by CBS 8 and ECM with two protesters who say they were injured by counter-protesters, no arrests for violence have been made in relation to protests or counter-protests in Santee this week.

On Sunday evening, the crowd walked back to the YMCA and their cars nearby, chanting and dispersing peacefully before the 7 p.m. curfew. 

None of the journalists or photographers on scene for ECM reported seeing any of the men involved in racially taunting protesters at prior events in Santee, nor any group publicly identifying itself as defenders.

ECM journalist Paul Kruze did observe a gorup of young men in tactical gear parked in front of the CVS Pharmacy eyeing action on the street. Most declined to speak to ECM, however one of the men named Justin stated, "Im here to insure that a peaceful protest stays peaceful to prevent wehat happened in La Mesa and other parts of the county from happening here in Santee." He added that he was glad thigns remained peaceful on this occasion. "So far so good," he said, but added, "We've been insulted and attacked by the s-called peaceful protesters. We've let it go...we respect their right to protest...and we want to allow that to happen. The vandalism is what we want to prevent."

One day earlier, on June 6, Santee City Manager Marlene Best sent a letter out to Santee business owners and property owners advising, "It has come to our attention that armed individuals have been located on the roof tops of some businesses in Sanee this past week." The letter indicated that while the city wants to support businesses, "We are asking that you please not allow or encourage armed individuals to be located on the roof tops of your businesses or sohpping centers. This creates additioal panic and raies more fear throughout the community, while potentially creating additional threats that the Sheriff may have to respond to." 

The letter further asks businesses to let law enforcement do their jobs in a safe manner and to report any incidents by calling 9-1-1 for emergencies or the non-emergency dispatch numbre at 858-565-5200, adding that the Sheriff department does not get dispatched from word of mouth or posts on social media.

View the full letter below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miriam Raftery, ECM Editor and host of ECM's radio show on KNSJ, has won more than 350 journalism awards for national and regional coverage. Her experience covering major protests, disasters and civil unrest includes the Alfred Olango police shooting in El Cajon anti-war marches in Washington D.C. during the Iraq War, protests over lack of federal resources after Hurricane Katrina, demonstrations by Iraqi-Americans in El Cajon calling on the U.S. to protect Iraqi Chaldean Christians from ISIS terrorists, and two of California's worst wildfires -- the 2003 Cedar Fire and 2007 firestorms in San Diego County.

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting, including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/

Paul Kruze, contributing editor of East County Magazine, is a multimedia journalist with experience in print, broadcast and web platforms. A tenacious investigative journalist, he has  covered a variety of subjects, particularly governmental and educational issues.

He has been recognized with multiple awards from San Diego Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists, including the Gloria Penner Award for political reporting from SPJ as well as first place honors for investigative reporting, news features and multicultural reporting from SDPC.  His work appears in local and regional venues as well as in nationwide syndication. His honors for works with ECM include his in-depth reporting on the El Cajon City Council,  Cajon Valley Union School District, local business news, and the East County Performing Arts Center.

 

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting, including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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