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Black Lives Matter march shifts gears as it passes through Southtown to La Villita, Hemisfair

by Carson BoldingJun 09, 2020

On Monday, a second week of demonstrations against police brutality began across the nation. In San Antonio, protestors gathered at Blue Star Arts Complex south of downtown for a silent march to La Villita and Hemisfair. At Blue Star, Young Ambitious Activists, the organizers of this and many other local protests, stressed to supporters the day’s theme was love, family, and community.

Organizer Anthony Sanchez encouraged attendees to take selfies with fellow marchers. Lexi Qaiyyim, another organizer, opened the “people’s protests,” a time for demonstrators to share their stories with the crowd, by reading Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” Officer Douglas Greene was then invited to speak to the crowd. “I walked up here, and I was received with love,” Greene said to 2,000 demonstrators assembled at Blue Star. “If we can protest together, we can dream together.”

It was the 10th consecutive day of marching in downtown San Antonio following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police two weeks ago.

Those who spoke in the people’s protest echoed the organizers’ calls for unity and community. Dustin Castro, 35, emphasized the importance of building community and connecting with people of different backgrounds. “The younger generations are part of a new generation of humanity, where it’s no longer tribalistic, it’s no longer divisive, it’s no longer us versus them,” he said. “We’re also connected. We’re also inspired. We’re also motivated.”

Staci Wilson, 22, told the crowd to think beyond George Floyd when they march.

“I want y’all to remember what y’all are marching for,” she said. “You’re not only marching for yourself, you’re not only marching for your friends. You’re not only marching for your families, or just for George Floyd. You’re marching for everybody.”

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Just before the march began, U.S. Rep. Joaquin and former Mayor Julián Castro arrived to speak to the crowd. “I want to say how proud I am to see everybody here,” Joaquin Castro said. After speaking about the history of police brutality in America, he said, “What I think you should be asking every elected official, from the president to the members of Congress to the City Council members to the county commissioners to the state legislators, is, ‘Are you gonna act?’ ” He cited his record in Congress of advocating against H.R. 1154, a bill in the U.S. House that would allow police unions across the country to engage in collective bargaining.

Julián Castro spoke about his work on the presidential campaign trail in the past year, stating that his campaign was the only one to put forward a stand-alone policy on policing.

“We want an America that lives up to his highest ideals, where no matter who you are, you’re treated fairly and your life is not snuffed out because of bigotry,” he said.

Monday’s protest followed a different route than last week’s marches. After leaving Blue Star Arts Complex, the crowd walked through the King William Historic District to La Villita. Last week’s protests were held at Public Safety Headquarters at South Santa Rosa Avenue, with marches to the Bexar County Courthouse and Travis Park. Dito Mendoza, 21, a member of Young Ambitious Activists, said their goal was to “bring (the movement) to new parts of the city.” He said the new route offered views of the Tower of the Americas and the River Walk, which brought a distinctly San Antonio energy to the protest.

Along the route, demonstrators were encouraged to be silent, but to hold their signs up high. “Put your signs up,” Qaiyyim told people as she passed them. “They can’t hear us, but they’re gonna see us today.”

At Arneson River Theatre, the throng of demonstrators filed in. Organizer Trevor Taylor led the crowd in chanting the names of two black men who were killed by SAPD officers in recent years: Charles Roundtree Jr. and Marquise Jones. Now that four Minneapolis officers have been charged in Floyd’s murder, the focus of the protests have shifted to police reform and justice for all victims of police brutality, including explicit calls in San Antonio for justice for Roundtree and Jones. Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales has said he has no plans to reopen those cases.

After leaving La Villita, the march continued to the Torch of Friendship and then Hemisfair, where demonstrators convened on the grass for another round of the people’s protest. Members of the Krishna Temple were there to serve free food to all attendees.

Protestors demand police reform from Mayor Nirenberg, city officials

Carson Bolding is a reporting intern at the Heron and is studying economics and communications at Trinity University. She can be reached at carson@saheron.com, @carsonautri on Twitter.

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