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Peaceful Protests Seek Justice, Reform, End to Systemic Racism

Two peaceful protests took place in downtown Fullerton on June 6 and 7 whose themes were justice for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality, an end to systemic racism, black lives matter (BLM), and serious police reform/defunding the police.

The June 6 protest was organized by Fullerton resident Faith Forcucci-Morris.

“As a long-time resident of Fullerton (I went to Troy High School and Fullerton College), I felt the need to show support for the black lives matter movement in my local community. After attending the protest on May 30, my husband and I were researching to see if there were other protests in Fullerton organized for this week/weekend and saw none, so we decided to step up and do it ourselves,”  Forcucci Morris said. “We started by researching peaceful protest guidelines from the ACLU, and reached out to the FPD to alert them of our plans to avoid unnecessary police intervention.  Once we had those bases covered, we continued our research on the BLM movement and decided to support Campaign Zero’s #8CANTWAIT initiative to begin the process of defunding and demilitarizing the police in the city of Fullerton. We put a flyer together as a call to action for attendees of our protest, and reached out to local representatives, students, and community leaders to organize a diverse set of speakers. As white people, we felt it was our duty to create a place for our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community to be seen and heard.”

Protesters gather outside Fullerton City Hall on June 6.

Approximately 1,500 people showed up to protest at Fullerton City Hall carrying signs and chanting as cars drove by on Commonwealth Ave, many of them honking in support.

Next, a series of speakers that included some local elected officials addressed the crowd, which filled the lawn of City Hall.

“I hear your voices. And even some of my Republican colleagues hear your voices,” Congressmember Gil Cisneros (D-39) said. “And it’s up to you to make sure you hold us accountable for doing that.”

Protesters take a knee outside Fullerton City Hall.

State Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva reminded the crowd of the brutal beating of Kelly Thomas at the hands of Fullerton police.

“We need to stop brutality. We need to stop looking the other way. We need to do something about it, and you’re doing it today,” Quirk-Silva said.

Fullerton City Councilmember Ahmad Zahra, the first LGBT Muslim elected in the United States spoke next.

“As a gay Arab Muslim immigrant from Syria, I am no stranger to hate, discrimination, and racism. But I can’t even imagine the daily experiences of my black brothers and sisters, and trans siblings,” Zahra said. “This is Pride month, and the Pride flag has been raised for the second year at Fullerton City Hall. This year it takes on a new meaning and a renewed hope for a community united against hate, prejudice, and racism—a community where children grow up knowing they are loved, that they are safe, that they have opportunity and a future no matter the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation.”

Local Congressmember Gil Cisneros addresses protesters.

Next Ahsha Jones, the sophomore ASB president at Troy High School, spoke.

“I’m here to tell you about my experience as a black girl in an anti-black world,” Jones said. She described the experience of her brother being carefully watched by employees while shopping at Wal-Mart. She described going to a public pool and a girl telling her she could not swim there because she was black. She said fellow students at her school have called her the n-word.

“We’re not threats. We’re not animals. We shouldn’t be seen as such. We deserve to have rights. We deserve to be seen as equals,” Jones said. “Our history reflects 400 years of being seen as property, 400 years of being dehumanized…We’re tired. We need change.”

Ahsha Jones, the sophomore ASB president at Troy High School, speaks to the crowd.

Regarding police reform, she said, “We need the police to not act on impulse, but to actually think it through. We need them to check their colleagues…Don’t let my skin color be seen as a crime still. Don’t let it. Because I don’t deserve that, and none of us does.”

FUHS Student Chloe Serrano, who is Filipina/Korean, addressed the crowd next.

“Last week I educated my immigrant mom on the systemic anti-blackness our country holds,” Serrano said. “Like many Americans my mom was upset, but she was also influenced and scared by the false narrative some of the media are showing. She did not want her little 15-year-old baby to go out into a protest with the possibility of getting hurt. I told her: ‘Mommy, the fear you have of me getting hurt, wounded, or even arrested is the same fear black people have every day.’ They do not have a safe space to live freely and feel validated as we do.”

Around 1,500 people gathered at City Hall on June 6.

Next, local pastor, activist, and artist Willie Holmes led the assembled crowd in a prayer and an extended moment of silence for the exact length of time George Floyd had the police officer’s knee on his neck—8 minutes and 46 seconds.

The silence was profound, and was occasionally interrupted by the honking of cars in support as they drove by.

A bit later in the afternoon, there were more speakers.

Local resident Camille Hernandez who attended UC Santa Cruz and studied under famous civil rights activist and educator Angela Davis addressed the crowd.

Protesters raise their fists in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

“We are celebrating the end of white supremacy in our country,” Hernandez said. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today because we are angry, we are pissed, and today we say, ‘No more.’ We cannot handle having any more black martyrs in our country. We cannot handle wondering if our children will live past tomorrow. We cannot handle living in a system that is silent to our hurts and our needs.”

Hernandez said that just last Friday she was stopped by the police and feared for her life. “It frightens me that that happens every day. It happens in this city…I don’t want to live in a world where I have to raise my kids to be fearful.”

Hernandez noted that the crowd assembled was very diverse, including many white people. “For my white friends and my white allies—thank you for being here,” she said. “Thank you for opening your eyes. Welcome to the cookout. We have been waiting for you, and you are here now. But there is so much learning that needs to be done, and so much listening that needs to be done.”

Local resident Camille Hernandez addresses the crowd.

Fullerton resident Phyllis Macharia read what she had written the night she found out George Floyd was murdered.

“I am in a state of mind, a state where I am intolerant to neutrality. You either fight beside me on my journey to liberation, or you choose the path of silence. Silence is deafening, cowardice is stifling. But most of all, telling,” Macharia said. “I witness the institutionalized racism in classrooms, boardrooms, and courtrooms…I’m no longer interested in hearing, ‘Did they comply? Did they have a criminal history?’ Because quite honestly these inquiries are inconsequential when measured against the value of a life.”

Fullerton resident Phyllis Macharia addresses the crowd.

Kennedy Macharia, who grew up in Fullerton and attended Troy High School, addressed the crowd.

“I just want to say that I’m very proud of this city today. There are people of different colors, different sexual orientations, different religions around you—all fighting for the same cause, guys. But I want to be mindful—when everybody makes it home today—George Floyd didn’t make it home. Breonna Taylor didn’t make it home. Philandro Castile didn’t make it home. Trayvon Martin didn’t make it home. Many black people didn’t make it home,” Macharia said. “In 2014, I went to protest for Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson. Maybe 400 of us. We were all arrested, all zip-tied for exercising our rights as US citizens…I ain’t perfect. But I deserve to be on these streets. I deserve to walk this planet. All my people want is love and equality. That’s all we want. And God forbid and thank God we don’t want revenge…But please. It does not stop here. Go home. Do your homework.”

Macharia then led the crowd in the call and response chant:

Say her name!

Breonna Taylor!

Say his name!

George Floyd!

Next Ace Brown addressed the crowd. He spoke of his cousin D’Angelo Lopez who was killed by the LAPD in 2013 while Brown was with him.

“I felt angry for years,” he said. “Some of you may have been touched when Trayvon Martin was killed, but not everybody was touched. But looking out now, I feel like everybody is touched. We must do better in our community…I encourage you guys to do more in your community. I encourage you to educate yourselves on voting. I’m 30 years old and I’ve never voted in my life. I didn’t think voting mattered from up top. But if we want to change something, we have to vote. Get educated on who is running.”

Brown, who is an alumni of Fullerton Union High School, then led a march to Plummer Auditorium to protest the fact that a prominent local monument is named after Louis E. Plummer, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

The evidence for Plummer being a member of the KKK is a 1979 UCLA doctoral dissertation called “The Invisible Government and the Viable Community: The Ku Klux Klan in Orange County, California During the 1920s” by Christopher Cocoltchos, which states the following: “Councilman W.A. Moore, Judge French, and Superintendent of Schools Plummer joined the Klan in the latter part of 1923, and R.A. Mardsen entered in mid-1924. Civic leaders were especially eager to join. Seven of the eighteen councilmen who served on the council between 1918 and 1930 were Klansmen.”

Before the march through downtown to Plummer, Forcucci-Morris said to the crowd, “Please do not let this be your one act of solidarity. We need to vote. You need to fill out the census so that your city is funded and represents you. You need to call your mayor and initiate the 8-can’t-wait policies and defund the police.”

Here are some photos of the march:

The following day, June 7, another large student-led protest and march was organized at City Hall.

Among the speakers at this protest was Fullerton resident and activist Jose Trinidad Castañeda, who announced that he will be running for Fullerton City Council this year.

“You need to know who is going to fight for you behind closed doors, who is going to fight for you for racial justice time and time again despite the power of police unions, of white supremacists, and of Republicans in positions of power right now,” Castañeda said. “I’m running for city council to change the system, to fight for racial justice, to make sure that our police department budget is not 50% of all the city’s revenue…We need truth and accountability.”

Jose Trinidad Castañeda addresses the crowd on June 7.

Another speaker said that his two daughters, who are 7 and 11, have already experienced racism in school. “If you have someone in your family who speaks racist rhetoric, correct them,” he said. “It’s real simple.”

A Fullerton College student named Veronica asked that everyone take a knee while she spoke “to understand how hard it is to be on your knees for such a long time,” she said. “George Floyd is only one victim out of the many victims of police brutality. Throughout my life I’ve seen many videos, heard many stories of black people’s lives being taken with guns or by being beat down, but this is the first time in my life that I have heard of a person being killed over such a long time. The killer kneeled down on someone’s neck while two other officers watched. That was a thought in his head, it wasn’t something that just happened. He wasn’t trigger happy. He decided to stay on his neck the entire time. We heard George stop talking. We heard him be silenced. And I’m shaking right now because it’s not okay. It’s not.”

A Fullerton College student addresses the crowd on June 7.

Another speaker urged the crowd to continue protesting.“We can’t see this as a trend. This must go on for as long as it takes. The Montgomery bus boycott lasted about 300 days. Other protests lasted more than 6 months. We can’t see this as just the weekly movement. We have to put pressure on our own city councils. It all starts locally.”

Another speaker who was at the protest the previous weekend criticized the police’s heavy-handed response by “pulling a tank on a peaceful protest.” He said, “We stood right here on this corner. They pulled a tank out from behind a fence right over there, on a peaceful protest. They had riot gear. They outnumbered us. They brought 3 police departments out for 50 people or so. That’s a gang. There are politicians who have said openly that they’re afraid of the political power of the police. What’s the reason? They have guns and no accountability. They run the policy. They get 50% of the budget or more.”

Long-time activist Lolitha Jones said, “This did not just start yesterday. This did not just start when George Floyd was murdered by the police. This has been going on for way too long.”

Lolitha Jones and her son lead the crowd in a moment of extended silence.

She invited her son, a Fullerton College student, to help her take a knee along with the assembled crowd, to observe another moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

This was followed by a peaceful protest through the streets of downtown Fullerton. The Fullerton Police department took a decidedly more hands-off approach to these protests, keeping their distance, and helping redirect traffic. Here are some photos from that march:

2 replies »

  1. Very, very nicely written. I read every word. George Floyd has been beautifully nestled right next to the woman he called out for to help him. Why? Because that was his mom and that’s exactly what a mom does, if she is able to and that is come to the aide and rescue of her child. Most of us had absolutely no idea that George’s mom had preceeded him in death. When those that didn’t know came to the realization that his mom was in fact deceased, all of the mothers around the world of just about every nationality in all 50 states became his mom. We heard his cry loud and crystal clear. Mr. Floyd you just woke up some sleeping mother’s and the world will hear our roar.