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'We need a voice': Hundreds participate in peaceful protest, march through Lompoc
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'We need a voice': Hundreds participate in peaceful protest, march through Lompoc

Hundreds of Lompoc community members of various races and backgrounds joined together Tuesday in a powerful show of unity for a peaceful protest to demand an end to racial injustice and police brutality.

At least 400 people took part in the rally, which was arranged by several local young adults in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by police officers on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.

With many of the marchers carrying signs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and basic human rights, the energized crowd made its way from Ryon Park to the Lompoc Police Station and then up the entire span of North H Street before concluding back at Ryon Park.

“We need a voice; everyone needs to speak up,” Fabio Genovese, who helped organize the protest, said to the crowd before it took off from Ryon Park. “If ever there was a time in our lifetime, this is the time.”

That sense of urgency and desire to be heard carried through the entire event, which lasted more than four hours.

“Are you guys mad?” Raelyn Person, another of the organizers, asked the attendees. “I’m f**king mad.”

Despite anger and frustration that was expressed by many involved in the protest, the event was free of the violence or looting that has come to mark other recent protests across the country. Locally, a protest Sunday in Santa Maria began as a peaceful one but escalated as more people joined later that night, leading to vandalism and rioting. 

Several businesses along Ocean Avenue and North H Street in Lompoc had their windows boarded as a precaution Tuesday evening. 

The presence of police was not notable at the protest, even as protesters stood together in front of the police station and called for officers to join them.

When no personnel took them up on the offer, the gathering continued with emotional speeches, displays of love and even a drum circle dance performance led by Danza Azteca Xochitl.

Lompoc resident Nathan Charles shared his thoughts on the injustice taking place in America and then read aloud a poem that he penned after the Floyd killing.

Charles received a massive ovation for the original piece, which concluded with the line: “Martin Luther had a dream and I can’t even sleep at night, because it’s 2020 and we still out here f**king fighting for equal rights.”

An apparent counter-protester caused a brief verbal skirmish at the police station, but protesters surrounded the man to protect him from any potential attacks.

Person noted she and some of those around her were the target of a few racial slurs from passing vehicles, but she said she was more focused on the purpose of the protest than those looking to cause trouble. 

“Those people aren’t my concern; we can’t stop ignorance,” she said. “Unfortunately, if I were to engage with them at all or give them any of my attention, it already takes away from what my big picture is.”

Mayor Jenelle Osborne was among the marchers. Her schedule became free when Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was postponed until 1:45 p.m. Wednesday so as not to interfere with Tuesday’s demonstration.

Osborne commended the organizers and said she was proud to see so many people join together.

“This community has always been strong and supportive of each other,” she said, “and I know that this opportunity to share their voice and come out as a community is another sign of how positive this community can be and how supportive it can be.”

She expressed appreciation for everyone remaining safe, and said she was supportive of the organizers’ efforts.

“They really wanted to show that we can continue to put pressure on the community at-large to pay attention to systemic racism and how we can address it, not just through the police departments but with all areas in our lives,” she said.

Lompoc Protest 2

Protesters work with signs in Lompoc during a protest Tuesday afternoon against police brutality stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Lompoc native Aleaha Wheeler, 21, said that she was pleasantly surprised by the unity shown among the protesters.

“For the last few years it seems like the community has been going down with gang violence and a lot of youth going out in the streets,” she said. “So to see all these people out here, to see gang members out here standing together, a lot of people who were fighting before are now here standing together — it’s heartwarming.”

Many also expressed appreciation for the diversity of the crowd. Fists of all shades were raised during several moments of silence, and the group made several unified chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.”

Megan Hale, who is white, said she felt it was important to support the cause.

“We want to make change and we want to be a part of that change,” she said, motioning toward her friends. “It’s not Lompoc, it’s not Minneapolis — it’s the entire world. They’re rioting overseas for the same thing. Being together is the only way we’re going to make that change.”

After the final trek to Ryon Park, the event wrapped up with a group prayer, and some protesters remained on scene to pick up discarded trash.

Person, who said she was encouraged by the turnout and all the love that was shown, acknowledged the fight is far from over. 

“My main concern now is what happens tomorrow,” she said near the end of the protest. “I don’t want to say I’ve mentally checked out of this, but my focus is on my plan for tomorrow and the day after that, because that’s when it’s really gonna make a difference."

“We planted the seed, so now it has to grow.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base for the Lompoc Record. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.

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Community members of various backgrounds participated in the event, which was held to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. It was on June 19, 1865 — more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — that union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the African American slaves were now free.

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