OCEANSIDE — On the evening of June 4, at least 100 Black Lives Matter protestors marched peaceably in the streets of downtown Oceanside.
While individual protestors expressed a variety of reasons for participating in the march, the general theme was speaking out against law enforcement’s use of excessive force.
The demonstration parallels many others like it across the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
The crowd proceeded from the vicinity of Oceanside City Hall heading south along Coast Highway 101, eventually returning after a series of right turns. At times, the group stopped to listen to organizers speak to the crowd, lie down in the road and kneel in silence.
“We want justice,” said DJ Johnson, a Vista resident and one of the event’s organizers. “A lot of African Americans are getting killed in the street and videotaped, and there’s no justice, there’s no punishment.
“The police officers that are killing us are not getting punished, they’re no losing anything. Even white people just in general aren’t losing anything. … They’re not getting put in jail. They’re not getting sentences. They’re going home with paid leave to go see their families.”
Johnson, an African American, hails from New Orleans but settled in Southern California following a stint in the military.
When asked whether he’d like to see any particular policies enacted at state and local levels, he noted several issues. Specifically, Johnson said police officers should be reprimanded for excessive force or misconduct immediately without outside pressure from the community.
“Police officers being punished right away for what they do wrong,” Johnson said. “Absolutely. Right then and there. … The process [takes] too long, when they’ve got video evidence of us getting killed innocently in the streets. And they don’t do anything, until we put pressure on them. That’s when they want to start making arrests — that’s bulls–t.”
As for candidates for running local offices in the upcoming November election, Johnson encouraged each of them to spend some time with members of the African American community.
“Walk with us,” Johnson said. “Listen to the people. Stop trying to make laws that you think are good for us. No, you’ve got to listen to us. You’ve got to come talk to us. You’ve got to put your boots on the ground and come talk to the people. Because they’ve listened to the wrong people, [who] don’t even know anything about us.
“The people that are getting voted in — and we’ve got to do a better job voting — are not even from the places where they’re representing. So, there’s a disconnect, they don’t understand us.”
Johnson declined to comment if he had any personal negative experiences with local police departments.
“If we’ve got one problem with the police force, it’s a systematic problem,” he said. “The powers that be — the middle people, the top people — they’ve got to make laws to protect us. … They put a lot of resources in[to] the Carlsbads of the world, and those types of place, but they don’t focus on the ‘hood.’”
Several Coast Highway businesses positioned along the protester’s route had boarded up their windows with plywood to protect against the possible destruction of property should the protest turn violent.
But Johnson said everything the group was doing was “very peaceful.”
When an unidentified person yelled, “F–k the police,” John told the crowd, “That’s not what we’re about.”
Jerry Holder, a 28-year-old Oceanside native, came to voice his support for the protesters.
“I’m coming out here today to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but also to make sure that my presence — that I can use it as a voice, basically, to show people that police brutality is not something that anybody should be approving of,” said Holder.
Asked whether he’s personally had negative run-ins with local police departments, he said, “Nothing too serious. Oceanside [police], they’re not the way that these other cops are. You can see that they’re giving us our space [while we march], we’re giving them theirs. It’s not even about us fighting police or anything like that. … With the police being with us here today, that’s also showing unity within our communities.”
“I just really want to see more unification,” Holder said. “Instead of having us come out here to mourn the death of George Floyd, we should be out here doing this just for, you know — on Saturday, the city’s going to show support, and it’s not even a protest, just a walk, just showing unity and whatnot. That’s what should be happening here.”
“I just believe in justice and equality and that black lives matter,” said Brittany Carreno, another protester told The Coast News.
Carreno, was born and raised in Oceanside. She returned to the city in recent years following her husband’s Coast Guard career. She is 33 years old and has four children.
Carreno said she witnessed negative actions of local police, such as “racial profiling,” but she didn’t elaborate or provide specific examples.
“Oceanside specifically has done a lot of developments [but] that the money is not being poured back into the [city],” Carreno said. “Gentrification, bringing tourists in, which is supposed to bring in a lot of money in the schools, and the communities are not seeing that money. … I think our schools are overcrowded, and it’s in a very expensive place to live in, and the schools do not reflect the level of income being brought in.”
Carreno added that she “absolutely” thinks city developments and gentrification disproportionately affect African American people in the Oceanside community.
The Oceanside Police Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for information about any officers who might have been disciplined or received complaints within the past several years for excessive force.