Photos by Tom and Nadin Abbott
It starts in the Hall of justice, that’s where justice starts.”
Adisa at San Diego Hall of Justice, May 31st, 2020
It was peaceful, at least the five hours we spent with the demonstrators. However, there is a lot of anger with the crowd, which was mostly young, and from all skin colors. However, it was led by black activists, some young some older. The precipitating event is two-fold. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the arrest of a young black man by a La Mesa police officer, who has since gone to paid leave.
The march started at ten in the morning at the Hall of Justice, where a lot of the anger is directed at. Why? The justice system is not blind, or as Adisa put it:
“The agenda is peaceful. We are in the right place for change.” She pointed at the Hall of Justice, “change starts in here. Change starts at the top. Not even the president, well if we had one, anything could change of what we have to endure on a daily basis.”
She added that “the reason that changes starts here is that the judges can no longer give rogue police a place to hide.”
She did point to the right place where change starts and this is with a local, state, and national leadership that needs to first see the problem, and act on it. It is time, and this was a feeling among those marching, to leave behind the systems of social control going back centuries.
She also mentioned that a lot of our police officers, when they go before the court, “the agenda is to make the judges accountable. If you are a civil servant you should not be entitled to a trial by judge. (Bench trial) You need to face your peers!”
Adisa also said that black leaders, “they’re tired, we need a new face.” She also admitted that she is not that, and admonished the young, that “you need to act as if your mother was standing across the street watching you. You have to police yourself. Violence begets violence.”
As one person put it, she is an immigrant but is black. In her country, there is no race or color. People dream of coming to the United States, however, it is a crime to be black in America. She pointed out that people do not know what they have, but that this is a serious problem.
Others pointed to her that they were tired of waiting for change. Adisa is older, they are the young generation, who want those officers arrested. One pointed to the situation in La Mesa, where a young black man was arrested. This is one reason for people to be in the streets in San Diego.
There was a very spirited discussion, with many voices. They are tired of a system that they see as a system of oppression. Given the last four hundred years, and the rebuilding of these systems of social control, they are correct. There was another moment when one person pointed to the kids who were separated from their parents and are languishing in Core Civic facilities in the South Bay. One of the activists. A representative from the Party of Socialism and Liberation said at this march was about black lives, and that it was important to keep the focus on the cause.
A young woman pointed to Adisa that “we are playing by their rules, and that the system was founded upon slavery.” There is a feeling that the only way to change this, is though revolutionary change.
The representative from the Party of Socialism and Liberation also went into these issues, and how trying to convince the judges is part of the problem. They are tired of waiting for the system to listen to them.
What was very significant is that I got only a first name here, or just an organization there. There is little trust with the media or any other institutions.
As they started to march, they were both escorted and directed by San Diego Police units. They first marched towards Pacific Avenue and when they were turned back, they went up C Street towards the 163. There was a show of force on the part of the police, mostly San Diego Police who showed up in force and riot gear. The California Highway Patrol was also concerned about this, but they were, ironically, in a less aggressive stance.
This was the tensest moment in the march. We had police in both the front of the marchers and the rear. They were essentially kettled in, with only one way out, which the marchers took. San Diego Police was dressed in riot gear, including long buttons, helmets, face shields and tactical vests. The CHP was not as dressed for this. Last night protesters were able to walk into Interstate 8 and held it for a few hours.
People knelt with their hands up, towards officers. One marcher asked me, “are they afraid we are going to march onto the freeway?” Of course, they were. Why we had the show of force at that corner. The march turned towards Broadway and then up E Street. San Diego Police HQ is down the road, about a mile to a mile and a half. Over the course of this, they had officers in their rear, as well as on their sides. When they arrived at the police station, they were met by a building surrounded by officers in full riot gear, as well as a few in SWAT uniforms. They had on them mostly buttons, both long and short, with a few officers holding less than lethal weapons.
On the way over, I also talked to a young woman, again no name, who was present yesterday at La Mesa. She was part of the group that took over the freeway. She told me that when things got hairy was when the Bearcat tried to press itself into the police station in La Mesa. This is when people started defacing it and throwing rocks at it. This is her perspective, and it is an important one to listen to. Because how things go depends on multiple perspectives.
It is here where white allies were asked by organizers to seat on the steps in front of the officers. They did so, and people joined the chant, “black lives matter.” Here is where we saw the only arrest in the whole thing. This person tried to run over a few demonstrators, but from what we can tell he did not injure anybody. We know he was arrested, but we have no idea what the charges are, or will be.
After that, demonstrators marched into the I-5 around CHP officers who did not try to resist. They walked into the freeway, and that is when we decided to come home. The demonstrations downtown continue. One of the reasons is that people want real change, and they are tired of just words, but little action.
On the way home, we saw a business boarded up, however, there was no violence, and we also witnessed a woman get out of her car, and scream “White Power, all lives matter.” Of note, we saw some people at the march that may be part of the alt-right groups infiltrating, but we could not tell for sure. So we just mention this in passing.