Protests spread to unexpected places like Irvine

Peaceful protests continue to spread across the region, drawing large numbers of people to places unaccustomed to political demonstrations.

Moneka Broughton attended a rally Wednesday night in Irvine and said that such protests never happened in the city when she was in school in the mid-2000s.

“I haven’t seen anything like it in my 32 years,” Broughton said of the national movement sparked by the Minneapolis police force’s death of George Floyd.

Several dozen protesters gathered on the steps of City Hall in downtown Los Angeles late Thursday morning.

They held signs that read “Civil rights are color blind” and “Don’t shoot!” while a small group of musicians played soulful music. Passing buses honked in support.

Among those gathered was Michael Gonzales, a 24-year-old delivery man who had finally managed to get to a protest on his day off.

Gonzales wore a shirt that read “Destroy white supremacy” and said he had spent the week posting information on the places and times of protests on social media so that others could participate when he could not.

Before coming to LA from Covina, he texted a friend who had doubts about the Floyd protests. The friend said he felt left out by focusing on black lives.

“I said, ‘This is their fight right now,” Gonzales said. “It’s their fight, but it’s for everyone. Police brutality happens to Latinos, including Asians, but right now it’s about black lives.”

At around 9 a.m., several dozen protesters gathered in front of the North Hollywood police station. Provvidenza Catalano, 29, was standing next to a banner that read “End White Silence”.

She said it was important for her to recognize her privilege as a white person. For the past week, she has reached out to friends and others to encourage them to join the Floyd protests.

“I see my liberation intertwined with the liberation of blacks,” she said.

In downtown Los Angeles, more than 100 protesters raised a fist in the air and kneeled in the grass of Grand Park for eight minutes and 46 seconds – that was how long Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee by Floyd’s neck.

As soon as they got up, they bowed their heads in prayer.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to gather peacefully in solidarity for change,” an organizer told the crowd. “I pray for everyone who is here – that they are covered in peace, that they are wrapped in activism to witness injustice.”

Last night, standing in front of hundreds of protesters at the foot of the Irvine Civic Center, Cessa Heard-Johnson raised the megaphone to her lips and urged the crowd to play a role in the national movement to reform the country’s judicial system.

“Don’t look for someone to do something,” she said. “You’re doing something.”

One by one, black community members took turns telling their stories, each revealing pain, trauma, and injustice.

The crowd cheered, sang and cried together.

Many were in awe that such a protest could take place in the conservative Irvine. Less than 2% of the city’s population is black, and the city’s protected nature is commonly referred to as the “Irvine Bubble”.

The rally was organized by three teenagers: Ava Hojreh, 19; Ida Nariman, 18; and Alizah Gomez, 18. The women used an Instagram account, @ocforblacklives, to spread the word.

They said the purpose of sitting peacefully is to raise communities that do not face injustice often.

“We wanted a productive and educational event,” said Hojreh.

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