The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two men killed by police within two days of each other, have spurred massive demonstrations in major cities. Both of their deaths were captured in cell phone videos that received millions of views that lead to public outrage and even investigations by the Department of Justice. In response to protests from St. Paul to New York City, Central Coast residents organized a rally in Seaside in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
On a warm Wednesday afternoon over 100 people gathered at a plaza that features a Carmel Valley Coffee at the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Fremont Boulevard. The Seaside resident who organized the event, Miriam Smith, began speaking on a microphone. Smith spoke about Seaside’s historical significance as a former civil-rights hub, and how pleased she is to see the tradition continue through this rally.
“It sickens me. Less than a month ago this nation had its worst mass shooting in its history,” Smith said. “And we continue to see violence on the news, from all sides. As a community, we need to develop the power to stop this.” At around 5pm Smith passed the microphone to several speakers from all spectrums of ideology and experience; from pro-peace veterans to anti-authority anarchists. Ann Jealous, mother of former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Ben Jealous, spoke on the progression of racial issues in her lifetime.
“I grew up with Jim Crow, feeling racially isolated,” Jealous said. “The only people who cared about our struggles was us, but today we see our issues affect everyone and transcend race.”
By 6 p.m. the large group began walking down Broadway Avenue in an orderly fashion, staying by the sidewalk and even collectively pausing at crosswalks. As they marched, protestors raised picket signs and chanted “Black Lives Matter”, occasionally cheering for the frequent honking of horns from supportive drivers.
Police presence came in the form of cruisers and police bikes blocking off certain areas, serving as boundaries protestors quickly maneuvered around. The group marched from along Broadway, then through Fremont, and arrived back at the plaza at the intersection at roughly 6:30pm.
The microphone was then passed around to anyone who wished to provide solutions or sentiments to issues ranging from unconscious racial bias to radically changing drug-policy in an effort to mend relations between police and communities of color.
Some people began leaving for home as the rally’s energy died down after 7pm. An officer from the Seaside Police Department, Cdr. Nick Borges, took the mic and stood on the ledge of the plaza’s seating area. “I really appreciate that you were all peaceful,” he said. “You showed the human side of demonstrations.”
With the news crews putting camera tripods in vans and protesters picking up posters left behind, Smith called for one last unified chant before the movement called it a day.