A positive outlook on protesting and the side of the BLM movement that the media is not focusing on

Photo by Sienna Hicks.

Photo by Sienna Hicks.

In Summer 2020, I participated in street activism after the murder of George Floyd. I had only been to two protests before: the women’s rights march in Downtown Los Angeles and the LGBTQIA+ rights protest at APU.  I have always stood up for what I believe in, whether it be at school or with my family, and I have more liberal views than others in the Christian communities I was a part of growing up.

But I can hardly compare those experiences to the Black Lives Matter gatherings that I was a part of this summer. 

Some people call it protesting, but I think I would prefer to call it community building. Community building isn’t televised on the news. Instead, when we hear about racially charged protests, we see violence, protesters getting tear gassed and handcuffed. And while I did attend a protest in DTLA when the curfews were implemented, I never saw any violence from the police or the protesters. 

In Summer 2020, a black man was suffocated to death by a white police officer who didn’t listen to his cries. When I first saw the video of Floyd being suffocated to death, I was shocked, angry and confused. The outrage and disbelief broke out across the world, and we all joined together to try and make a change. The first protest I went to was closer to home and smaller, it was at President Trump’s own golf course. People there seemed nervous to go but it was cool seeing my community come together to bring awareness to the rich neighborhood we were in. 

The next protest I attended a couple days later was in Manhattan Beach. This one had a calmer vibe, and we even talked to the police chief and a Black citizen, who was glad we were there to protest. 

I started to gather courage and went to a protest in Downtown Los Angeles. This one was different. It was organized by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, and there were thousands of people in attendance. You couldn’t see where the people ended, and it was organized the day after the military was sent to Los Angeles. There were speakers for a few hours in front of city hall, which was surrounded by armed guards. After that, we marched down into the city herself. After marching for a few hours, it started to get dark but we all kept marching inspired by the people yelling their support out of apartment windows. The only reason it got a little scary is because of the curfew in place. The police were blocking off the exits, and we didn’t know if we would make it back to our car. It felt a little like the “Hunger Games” scene where the police in white forced people into their houses.   

Marching felt like we were doing something important. The protestors stopped traffic, called people to join us and asked for their support.  Protestors would chant: “No Justice No Peace,” “Say their names,” Which ones!,” “This is what democracy looks like, we are what democracy looks like.” Everyone knew the words. My voice began to wear out, and the sounds of chants were ringing in my ears and there never was an end in sight. The protestors wanted to reach every person to show how we cared about police brutality, how we cared when we saw Floyd’s death and that we weren’t done fighting. File from iOS

While the rest of the world was going along with their lives, and protests in Los Angeles were dying down, one group of protesters kept on fighting. We The Movement (@wethemovement), an organization that was founded due to the protests, got people to join and march with them from just their Instagram page. The organizers of the protests met at a protest rally where they instantly bonded and became a family. Their mission was to keep marching after the protests calmed down out here and to continue fighting for change. 

One of the marches they organized was one of the biggest in Los Angeles’ history and grew from word of mouth online. While marching with them, it wasn’t just about anger and frustration but love and joy of community. The leaders would dance and sing, give speeches, chant and uplift everyone who came to participate. They also created events to support Black vendors and stores in Los Angeles, as well as yoga days on the beach. They chose to uplift the community, to stray away from violence and hate and to help keep the conversation open and alive.

Protesters kneeling at a rally in San Pedro. Photo by Sienna Hicks.

Protesters kneeling at a rally in San Pedro. Photo by Sienna Hicks.

Reflecting on this summer, I noticed how different community building is from what I was seeing in the media. I would see a post on Instagram giving the time and place of where a protest was occurring. It would say be safe, wear a mask and something like “don’t spread hate.” When you got to the protests you felt like you were a part of something, something with like-minded individuals who were there for the right reasons. Some people came from far away, some people from neighboring communities and some people just walked there from their homes. The protests included a melting pot of people who were old or young, white or black, gay or straight, everyone ended up getting along for the cause.  

One of the exercises that was most impactful was Floyd’s eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence. One of the speakers at a protest in San Pedro asked everyone to kneel or lay down for eight minutes and 46 seconds in silence, during the time of silence people from the crowd would yell out “help I can’t breath,” “mama” and “sir you’re hurting me,” things Floyd said while he was suffocating. It was shocking. While I had seen videos online of other protests holding the same exercise, I didn’t realize how long eight minutes and 46 seconds actually was. It must have been excruciating. 

As a mixed, but white passing woman, I feel that everyone should interact with community building in some way. What I experienced at these gatherings made me have faith in humanity and feel the love of a hurting community come together. 

It’s important to see both sides of the story, but also to hear the stories from people who are doing good. I loved being able to protest with like-minded people, who were angry just like me, and I will now be more open to protesting in the future when more injustices aren’t being dealt with properly by our communities or by the government.