Hundreds march for George Floyd

Hundreds march for George FloydBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writers

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel

Organizers of the local March for George Floyd used this quote by Wiesel, a Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, to preface their event – which rallied nearly a thousand participants on June 6, demanding justice for the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin and standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This is not a protest against the Ridgecrest Police Department,” said organizer Kathlyn Metanoia as marchers gathered at LeRoy Jackson Park on Saturday afternoon. “If that’s what you’re here for – you’re part of the problem.

“Out of all the cities I’ve lived in, Ridgecrest is a hidden gem among law enforcement,” said Metanoia in a later interview. “My run-ins with local law enforcement have been annoying at the worst.

“We’re demanding justice for George Floyd and all of the others who were killed by police who got to walk free. In major cities, police are waging warfare on their citizens.

“The destruction is happening in the major cities where, [Ridgecrest Police] Chief McLaughlin pointed out, law enforcement isn’t necessarily involved in their communities outside of their police work,” she said. “I think small-town police departments that care for their citizens have an obligation to stand against a flawed system that disproportionately targets black and brown lives.”

Chants of “black lives matter,” “no justice, no peace” “hands up, don’t shoot” were heard as men and women of all ages – mostly masked – departed the park, marching south on China Lake Boulevard toward the city center. Volunteers were staged along the route with water bottles and snacks for participants.

A small handful of residents were seen parked on the opposite side of the street with “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” signs. But marchers were met primarily with enthusiastic honking and waving from passing cars in apparent solidarity.

Local officers have been spotted dropping off cases of water and holding signs with protestors at local demonstrations. Officers also helped direct marchers safely through the intersections between LeRoy Jackson and the terminus at Freedom Park.

Upon arrival, the crowd gathered around the gazebo, continuing their chants calling for justice. A few began circulating the crowd asking participants to “arm themselves” by registering to vote.

McLaughlin, who was also present at the demonstration, said he was asked to speak but had declined.

“I’ve seen all the TV news stories where they focus on the chiefs and the sheriffs and I didn’t want this to turn into that,” said McLaughlin. “The focus should be on their message. They’re doing it the right way. Our job was just to make sure everybody was kept safe.”

Metanoia also stressed the importance of the Black Lives Matter message.

“People ask ‘why do we need to make this about race?’” she said. “People who refuse to support Black Lives Matter are either anti-black or they’re ‘colorblind,’ and both of those are a problem. When you’re colorblind, you fail to see the injustice that only comes with certain skin tones.

“When we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ we’re not saying only black lives matter. We’re saying black lives matter too. We’re fighting against a system that disproportionately targets black lives compared to other races. And it’s not just the justice system – it’s healthcare, education, the labor force and so many more. To deny this in an age of technology where we have so much knowledge and information at our fingertips is just willful ignorance.

“Until black lives matter, not all lives matter.”

“Someone said that we should stop protesting because the four officers that participated in the public lynching of George Floyd have all been charged and arrested,” said Reese Hogg III, addressing the crowd from the gazebo. “To that I say ‘thanks, but no thanks.’”

Hogg and his wife Miriam lost their son, Malik Mallett, in the summer of 2017.

Mallett allegedly intervened to break up a fight at a party and was stabbed and killed by a young white male contemporary. Former District Attorney Lisa Green ruled the assailant’s acts as self defense based on her office’s information and he was never charged.

“Thank you for arresting Derek Chauvin, but no thank you for the five days it took,” said Hogg.

“Thank you for the 2nd-degree murder charge, but no thank you for trying to undercharge Chauvin with manslaughter. Thank you for arresting the other officers, but no thank you for waiting until after cities all over the United States were torn up by rioters, looters, vandals and city police.

“Our cries and our protests are like prayers. Prayers for systemic change. So pray and protest until something happens...Pray that one day, we can appropriately say ‘All Lives Matter,’ not as an opposition to ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but as the reality of our national condition.”

"March for George Floyd" demonstrators parade down China Lake Boulevard as motorists wave them on. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-06-12