By Shawn Raymundo, Dana Point Times
Protests continued Wednesday, June 3, over the recent death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, with hundreds gathering in South Orange County, including Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, for rallies that called on law enforcement reforms—specifically, the demilitarization of police departments.
Led by Aliso Viejo resident Khalil Watson, dozens of demonstrators peacefully marched from Bear Brand Park in Laguna Niguel to the Camino del Avion and Golden Lantern intersection, which straddles the Dana Point and Laguna Niguel border. There, they occupied the four corners while waving signs and chanting “Black Lives Matter!”
“We are here to show solidarity as a unit, occupy space and raise awareness in both communities of Laguna Niguel and Dana Point that if you choose to ignore this situation, it will come to your doorstep, so to speak, and you can’t hide from it,” Watson said, referring to the disproportionate treatment black Americans have faced when it comes to police brutality and the justice system in general.
“The community is tired—and community being more than just the black community—but communities are tired of what’s going on in terms of police treatment when it comes to black lives and the disregard the police tend to have for them,” Watson, a black man, explained.
Minneapolis police officers stopped Floyd on May 25 after a store clerk had accused him of using a counterfeit $20 bill. What transpired during his arrest has since sent shock waves across the nation.
Recorded video taken by onlookers shows one of the four responding officers—Derek Chauvin—pinning Floyd on the pavement by kneeling on the 46-year-old’s neck as he gasped and pleaded for air, struggling to breathe.
Chauvin, a white officer with more than 18 years of service with the Minneapolis Police Department, was fired last week, when he was initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter—charges many protesters have criticized, believing it to be too light.
But Wednesday’s rally in Dana Point came on the day that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that Chauvin’s charges were upgraded to second-degree murder.
The three officers who also were involved in Floyd’s arrest and didn’t intervene had also been fired last week, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that Ellison brought charges against Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao for aiding and abetting in Floyd’s death, the New York Times reports.
For Watson, the new defensive coordinator for the Dana Hills High School football team, the protest on Wednesday goes beyond the latest tragedy involving yet another unarmed black person killed at the hands of police.
Watson said he wants to see meaningful reforms to law enforcement, starting with having the mayors of nearby cities take a closer look at their police service budgets and cutting out spending that has funded military-style equipment for departments.
“We require transparency with police budgets when it comes down to funding the police,” he said. “We definitely believe in divesting and demilitarizing the police. There’s no reason why, in Orange County especially, in some of these cities, that the police have some of these military equipment. That is completely out of bounds.”
Watson also said he and his fellow organizers of the protest believe there should be community review boards created, comprising marginalized and minority community members to have a say in the hiring and firing of police officers.
“We (as minorities) are still valued members of the community, and we believe that officers that don’t have our lives into account or don’t have us in mind when it comes to these situations, can’t continue to work,” he said.
Hundreds more on Wednesday also protested in other Orange County cities including Newport Beach and San Juan Capistrano, marking the ninth consecutive day of civil unrest and demonstrations that have been seen throughout the U.S.
It was unclear as of this posting whether another rally would be planned in Dana Point.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.