Paddle for Peace: Protesters rally at Tourmaline surf spot to honor George Floyd
Hundreds of surfers and other supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement gathered June 6 at Tourmaline Surfing Park in north Pacific Beach for a Paddle for Peace event to honor the life of George Floyd, whose death in police custody May 25 in Minneapolis has sparked protests throughout the country against racial injustice and police brutality.
“This is very special to me,” said the demonstration’s organizer, Marisa, who declined to give her last name out of fear of possible reprisals for her activism. “I’m from Guam and also black. I advocate for the ocean and I want to advocate for my people. I want to stand up to racism and show everyone we can come together as a community. We don’t have to hate each other; we don’t have to be violent. I want to give people a safe space to mourn, to release their hate.”
The resident of City Heights and avid surfer in Pacific Beach said she “organized a protest on accident.” She asked a small group of surfer friends to join her.
“I wanted to … honor George Floyd,” she said. “When people pass away in the surf community, we do a paddle-out to honor their lives. One thing led to another and it blew up into this big protest. It’s more than I ever could have expected.”
The protest began with Marisa’s remarks about racism and eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence for Floyd, the length of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd told him he couldn’t breathe.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder in Floyd’s death, and officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All have been fired.
The May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, has been at the forefront of renewed outcry, anger and debate over race relations in the United States, both in regard to police and society in general.
Marisa encouraged the large crowd at Tourmaline to “please use this time, dig really deep in yourselves. Ask yourselves, what are you going to do when you leave here, how are you going to make a difference? Will you talk to your friends when it’s uncomfortable?”
Those with surfboards then took to the ocean, paddling out as Marisa’s friends handed out flowers and leis for them to drop in the waves at a synchronized moment.
Those who chose to stay on the beach held signs and flowers and chanted “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” and answered “George Floyd” when leaders asked “What’s his name?”
“I’m here to support the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s a history of systemic racism in our country,” surfer John Sneed said.
Caroline McGraw said she joined the protest “as a sign of solidarity, to love, to listen, to learn. My grandsons are Mozambican and I was able to tell them this morning their grandparents are out on the shore of San Diego for them and for all black lives.”
For Marisa’s friend Lana Tabbs, the paddle-out was important because “it’s bringing us all together. We’ve been dealing with prejudice all our lives, so I’m glad to see everybody’s coming together for this. Finally. Things need to change.”
Fellow protester Paris Body agreed: “It makes a big difference to realize that people that do have that privilege are really out here for us and we’re not standing out here alone, fighting a battle that we cannot win alone. It makes all the difference.”
In other demonstrations over the weekend in Pacific Beach, a gathering occurred at 5 p.m. June 7 in the Trader Joe’s parking lot at Garnet Avenue and Ingraham Street. Nearly 100 protesters marched east on Garnet toward the coast, where the protest ended around 6 p.m.
The Pacific Beach Interfaith Coalition organized a prayer vigil for peace, justice and unity the evening of June 7 at Kate Sessions Park.
City News Service contributed to this report.