Carrying signs that read “George Floyd’s Life Matters,” “Black Lives Matter,” “White Silence is Violence,” “No Justice No Peace,” “Stop Racism With Positive Action,” “No More Excuses” and “I Won’t be Silent So You Can Be Comfortable,” more than 1,000 people turned out Sunday evening for a peaceful protest at Pasadena City Hall over the officer-involved death of George Floyd on Monday, May 25, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
That was far different from the scene earlier that day, when an estimated 100 people marched from La Pintoresca Park at North Fair Oaks Avenue and Washington Boulevard to Old Pasadena. There, according to the online news site Pasadena Now, protesters continued chanting and confronted drivers caught up in the street action. Although there were a few skirmishes, no major injuries were reported, according to police and other local news outlets.
Although a countywide 6 p.m. curfew had been called just a few hours before the 7 p.m. event was set to begin, local authorities allowed the hour-long protest to proceed as previously scheduled in Centennial Square, where long-shuttered protesters gathered wearing face masks and trying to keep at least three feet apart to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Predominantly white, the crowd was a mix of African American, Asian American and Latino protesters. Likewise, organizers of this event were of a number of faiths and Christian denominations organized through the group LA Voice, and the United Methodist Church of Pasadena and All Saints Episcopal Church, which, like the Pasadena Police Department, is located right across the street from City Hall.
Unlike demonstrations in other cities around the country — with rioting, police confrontations and looting occurring in Santa Monica, Long Beach and other area communities earlier the same day — Sunday night’s protest was peaceful, focusing instead on bringing people together on the need to rein in police use of of force.
The event was so causal, in fact, that young parents brought their children to the protest. One might have even forgotten for a moment that there was a pandemic lockdown in effect if not for the facial coverings and occasional nudge to move farther away from others in the crowd.
“As a mother and African-American woman, I know how perilous it is, and for my husband to walk around, I always say be careful. You don’t really have to do anything. You just have to look suspicious or look like you don’t belong,” said Barbara Walker, moderator of the board of deacons at First Baptist Church of Pasadena, also located near City Hall.
“We wanted to protest against the way African Americans are treated by society in this place and time, and our response is we are not going to be treated this way,” said Walker, who emceed the first portion of the presentation. “That’s our response; we are not going to be silent.”
Floyd, a 46-year-old single father of two daughters and a standout athlete in high school and junior college, was killed in Powderhorn, a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, by police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin had a lengthy history of complaints filed against him, with all but two of 18 complaints determined to be unfounded.
Floyd, who was African American and a native of Houston, was handcuffed and lying face down on the street during his arrest. Chauvin, who is white, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck 2 minutes and 53 seconds after Floyd became unresponsive.
Chauvin was arrested May 29th and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Civil rights leaders have strongly objected to the third-degree murder filing because it does not include an element of intent to kill on Chauvin’s part. The other three officers involved in the incident — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas K. Lane — did nothing to stop Chauvin. They also have been fired, but as of Tuesday none of them had not been criminally charged.
Over the four nights following Floyd’s death, violence erupted in Minneapolis, with a police station being burned, and other major cities, among them Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles, erupting in violence. In LA County, rioting was first reported in Los Angeles in the downtown area, the Fairfax District, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Long Beach.
Those attending Sunday’s protest in Pasadena were asked to bring whistles, bells and other kinds of noisemakers, which were eventually used by people in the crowd for nearly nine minutes — the length of time Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Speakers at the event included activist James Farr, rapper and preacher Andre Henry and Jasmine Richards Abdullah of Black Lives Matter.
Perhaps the lack of violence was the reason why the event garnered no coverage by the mainstream media.
“When I got home, my husband Ken and I scoured the television coverage to see if there was any on the Pasadena City Hall vigil,” wrote author and longtime Pasadena Weekly columnist Ellen Snortland. “We could not find anything. I guess the broadcast media is only interested in looting and fires. I’m sorry they didn’t cover something that was utterly and completely peaceful and hopeful.”