Update: Peaceful afternoon protest turns destructive Sunday night in Santa Maria
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Update: Peaceful afternoon protest turns destructive Sunday night in Santa Maria

Hundreds gather at Santa Maria City Hall, march, to protest police brutality

Demonstrators protesting police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death Sunday in Santa Maria turned unruly Sunday night, with some pulling down the American flag in front of City Hall, and lighting a fire at Cook Street and Broadway.

Multiple fights reportedly broke out in the area, with drivers in cars and trucks doing donuts around the fire set in the middle of the street as crowds watched. Some vandalism also reportedly occurred at the Town Center Mall.

The unrest followed a peaceful demonstration Sunday afternoon, during which hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall before marching down South Broadway.

The Santa Maria demonstration was among protests that have erupted across the country after Floyd, a black man, died May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee to Floyd's neck as he lay on the ground in handcuffs in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Outside City Hall, various people of color shared the injustices they have faced locally and called for change. 

"I’m here to show up for my community and my three African American children. I fear for them," said Robbin Locksley. "This has got to end. I'm willing to stand on the front lines."

Protesters eventually marched on sidewalks and in the southbound lanes of Broadway toward Stowell Road, receiving honks of support from passing cars and trucks as they went.

Shouts of "say his name" were followed by "George Floyd," and "say her name" with "Breonna Taylor," referring to a black woman killed by police while sleeping in her home in Louisville earlier this year. 

In addition to Floyd's death, marchers referenced the recent high-profile deaths of several black men and women that included Taylor. 

Organizers initially attempted to keep people from walking or standing in the road and blocking traffic, but many continued, wanting to draw as much attention as possible. 

After walking down South Broadway, the crowd turned around at Stowell Road and stood again at the intersection by City Hall, blocking southbound traffic. 

"There’s a lot of people who are angry, who are hurt, and we’re trying to make sure things don’t get too crazy ... This is a bit of a headache for traffic and the [police department], but if it brings their attention, it works," said Kyle Carter.
 
Carter also spoke at the beginning of the protest about his own experiences with racism in Santa Maria, from feeling targeted by local police to his daughter being called racial slurs at school.
 
"It’s going on everywhere. This is not a game. Our lives are at stake. When I say I’m tired people, I am tired. It is hard as f**k to be a minority in Santa Maria," he said. 
During the hours of shouting and chanting, protesters twice took a long moment of silence, sitting on the street for eight minutes in recognition of the eight minutes that the Minneapolis police officer's knee was on Floyd's neck.
 
Santa Maria Police assisted with controlling traffic at various points on South Broadway during the protest, and afterward thanked community members over social media for organizing peacefully. 
 
Another gathering scheduled for later this week is being planned by the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP, with details to be announced. 

Laura Place covers city government for the Santa Maria Times.

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