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Protesters in Pacific Beach caravan for racial equality

Jo Simon, who recently moved from New York, draws a power fist symbol on the passenger window of her car.
Jo Simon, who recently moved from New York, draws a power fist symbol on the passenger window of her car. Simon drove along with a Black Lives Matter caravan protest through Pacific Beach and Mission Beach on Sept. 20.
(Kristian Carreon)

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrators supporting the Black Lives Matter movement had to be creative to gather safely.

That’s why at least two dozen cars wound through the streets of Pacific Beach on Sept. 20, with passengers cheering, car horns honking and windows painted with messages reading “No justice, no peace” and “Say their names,” referring to those who have been killed by police.

The event was part of Caravan for Justice, a bimonthly protest for racial equality that allows social distancing in vehicles.

Susan Orlofsky of Ocean Beach has attended several of the protests. The 75-year-old, who has a compromised immune system, said this is the safest way for her to join the movement while maintaining distance from other protesters.

“I feel that this is a learnable and teachable moment in our history,” she said. “It’s about time this country dealt with its problems with racism and racist institutional structures.”

Co-organizers Kim Murphy and Susan Walsh said they started the group following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck. The case sparked national outrage and prompted protests throughout the country over police brutality and racial inequality.

Protesters decorated their cars to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protesters decorated their cars to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a caravan through Pacific Beach and Mission Beach on Sept. 20.
(Kristian Carreon)

For Jo Simon, who has attended other Caravan for Justice protests, the event is about advocating for basic human rights and ensuring that all people are treated as equals, regardless of their race.

“I have a lot of friends who are Black and have family members who are half Black, but even if I didn’t have them in my life, I’d still support this movement,” said Simon, who identifies as Filipino. “It’s just basic human rights. Your skin color doesn’t make you lesser. … We all bleed the same color.”

Murphy and Walsh, who are both White, said they are not trying to choose or shape the narrative for Black individuals or the Black Lives Matter movement. Instead, they aim to amplify the voices of those who have been silenced and continue the conversation of systemic racism in the United States.

“This is not a Black problem. This is a White problem to fix,” Walsh said. “We can’t ask the people who are being disenfranchised to fix a system they are excluded from and have been excluded from for centuries.”

Murphy, who lives in Pacific Beach and works for Microsoft, said she recognizes how fortunate she is and wants to use that privilege as a platform to help others.

In recent weeks, the number of protests overall has declined but many still continue in large and small cities across the United States.

“We’re not quitting just because people are starting to move on,” Walsh said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Walsh said the end of the carotid restraint among many police agencies has been a good start, but her group also would like to see an end to qualified immunity, which shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations.

The group also calls for a restructuring among local police agencies, a change in how police respond to homeless and mental health calls, and improvements to police resource officers placed in schools.

“When I was in school, if you got in trouble, the first response was not a police response,” Walsh said. “You were called to the principal’s office and the school would work with families or counselors to remedy bad behavior. Now a kid is charged with a crime and has a permanent record. ... We’re criminalizing normal adolescent behavior, and that system is more likely to impact poor or minority children.”

Caravan for Justice provides supplies for participants, including window paint, hand sanitizer, markers and poster boards. As people in the Sept. 20 group decorated their cars off Sea World Drive, where the protest route began, at least a dozen drivers cheered or honked their horns in support. One driver yelled “Trump 2020.”

Murphy said those who can’t attend the protests can support the movement by donating to the group or purchasing supplies on its Amazon “wish list.”


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