After two weeks of daily protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who died while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, many are asking, what’s next?
For many of those participating in a protest at the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Osborne Street in Pacoima on Saturday, June 6 – one of nearly 30 demonstrations across Southern California that day—the fight for equality, justice and police reforms must transform into real changes.
“This (bias) is so institutionalized. It’s in medicine, education…it’s definitely important for our voices to be heard. It needs to start with defunding the police, and our communities need to start benefiting,” said Georgia Acosta, who was among the more than 300 people at the three-hour demonstration.
People chanted and walked around the intersection, carrying small, medium and large signs in support of Black Lives Matter, in remembrance of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — all African-Americans killed by whites in situations that have riled and upset the masses.
The Saturday protest stayed peaceful as Aztec and Hip Hop dancers performed with music and brought forth messages of unity.
Acosta said the “ongoing oppression of 400 years (against blacks)” must end, and police have to recognize their racism and double standards when it comes to minorities.
She recalled being arrested as a teen for being in a park after hours.
“The undercover cop didn’t give me a chance to leave the park,” she said, adding that at age 12 she was also arrested for shoplifting polish and makeup. Acosta was taken to the LAPD Foothill Division, and had to wait there until her parents came.
“They said (the charge) would be expunged from my record, but it stayed on my record and it really hurt me for a long time when I applied for jobs,” she said.
Make Police “Face the Same System”
Acquanetta Denson believes that change will take time, and it should start with those police officers involved in the killing of African Americans being treated the same as any other person who kills someone.
“They have to face the same system that I would have to face if I killed someone,” she said.
The Hansen Hills resident said that she has been pulled over by police “for no reason at all” while being “scared out of my mind” for “just driving as a black woman.”
Denson added that she doesn’t think more training or policy changes would be effective in changing these prejudices.
“A white man knows he can kill a black man and not go to jail,” she said. “I don’t think training can remove hate. Prison is the only reform they can understand.
“I’m really afraid of what would happen (if the white officer charged with Floyd’s murder) doesn’t face the same justice as anyone else who kills a person. America has to do the right thing. The world is watching.”
The Ultimate Change
Sylmar resident Crystal, who carried a “Murder with a Badge” sign at the protest, hopes the “movement” created by the demonstrations becomes a catalyst for what she said would create the ultimate change — the ballot box.
A record 137.5 million people — 61.4% of those eligible to vote — cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election that propelled Donald Trump to the White House, according to the US Census Bureau. The turnout percentage was similar to the 2012 election but below the 63.6% that voted in 2008, when Barack Obama became the first African-American to reach the highest US office, the bureau reported.
A deeper look at the figures revealed that while the white voter turnout increased, Black and Latino voter shares actually decreased.
The Pew Research Center found that 16.4 million African-Americans voted in 2016 — about 59.6% of those eligible to cast a ballot and down from the 66% that voted in 2012, and the 65% that voted in 2008.
While more Latinos voted – about 14 million— their share of the ballots cast remained flat. A total of, that is 47.6% of those who were eligible voted, compared with 48% in 2012 and 49.9% in 2008.
In March this year, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Voting Rights Task Force and more than 200 other organizations sent out letters calling on governors and state elections officials to adopt a number of key policies to ensure both the public’s safety and the orderly conduct of the 2020 primary and general elections in light of the current threat posed by COVID-19.
“Mail-in ballot options should be made available to all registered voters (not just those on absentee voter lists). All voters should have ballots mailed to them and be provided with a list of options as to how to cast their completed ballots (including pre-paid postage for mail return),” was one of their recommendations, as well as same-day voting registration.
The NAACP, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, and many other groups have also advocated for similar measures.
“This is opening the eyes of so many Hispanics that do not vote,” said Crystal, 30. “(The November election is) when our voices will be heard the most. Hopefully, they will have time this year to go vote.”