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Roughly half of Orange County’s 34 cities have seen residents take to the streets and protest the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, and more protests are planned for this weekend. 

There’s also been an increasing focus on police department budgets among protestors. 

“I think that we definitely want to see funds and resources poured into social reform and I think that’s what people really want to see. We are not saying we do not want to see safety and security, said attorney Rebekah Thomas. 

Thomas is part of the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association, a group for Black attorneys and community allies. 

“We want to see some real investment in the community, particularly in the Black community and the minority community,” Thomas said. “We believe that the funds and resources should be geared towards reform and supporting our minority community.” 

OC’s Black community is relatively small at two percent of the population, but Thomas said there also needs to be a pushback on the negative stereotypes casted on Black people, particularly in South Orange County. 

“The larger issue is that there are systemic racial issues and implicit biases that overwhelmingly affect Black people in Orange County,” Thomas said. “There is an adversity of the concept of Black people in Orange County … I think people are fed up with the biases.” 

There are over a dozen protests scheduled for the weekend all over OC. 

See the chart below for a full listing of protests: 

From left, Kamelle Nandi, 30, is counseled by her boyfriend Mariano Reyes, 32, after she speaks to the crowd of protestors. “I was called a racial slur by white men who were riding in a pickup truck here in Huntington,” Nandi shared to the crowd, “I was just trying to do yoga. When I heard that word, I felt sick to my stomach.” Credit: PABLO UNZUETA, Voice of OC.
Protestors at the Black Lives Matter Protest in Huntington Beach are met with counter protestors on June 6, 2020. Credit: PABLO UNZUETA, Voice of OC.
Protestors gathered on Main and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach on June 6, 2020. Credit: PABLO UNZUETA, Voice of OC.
Protestors at the Chapman University Piazza in Orange on June 6, 2020. Credit: CÉLINE HAEBERLY, Voice of OC
Protestors sit and listen to the organizers before marching on the streets on June 6, 2020 at Carl Thornton park in Santa Ana. Credit: Courtesy of Kristopher Fortin
Protestors march east towards Bristol in Santa Ana, en route to Costa Mesa on June 6, 2020. Credit: Courtesy of Kristopher Fortin
Protestors in Irvine on June 6, 2020. Credit: MOLLY CHIEN, Voice of OC
Protestors in Irvine on June 6, 2020. Credit: MOLLY CHIEN, Voice of OC
Youth organizers take the streets in Stanton on June 6, 2020. Credit: CÉLINE HAEBERLY, Voice of OC
Protestors in Irvine on June 2, 2020. Credit: ABEL MANANSA, Voice of OC
Protestors in front of the Stanton civic center on June 6, 2020. Credit: CÉLINE HAEBERLY, Voice of OC
From left, assembly woman Sharon Quirk Silva with her husband Jesus Silva protest in front of Fullerton City Hall on June 6. Credit: SPENCER CUSTODIO, Voice of OC
Protestors take a knee in front of Fullerton City Hall on Commonwealth St. on June 6, 2020. Credit: SPENCER CUSTODIO, Voice of OC
Protestors hold signs in front of Fullerton City Hall on Commonwealth St. on June 6, 2020. Credit: SPENCER CUSTODIO, Voice of OC

Roberto Herrera, director of community engagement for Resilience OC, also said as people become more engaged through the protests over police brutality, they’re starting to question city budgets.

“What does it mean when half of the budget goes to police?” Herrera said. “I don’t believe police officers are being ‘efficient’ or financially managing their departments well enough and it’s going to lead cities and the County to bankruptcy. That’s what we’re seeing in Santa Ana … amidst this recession we need to think about this long term.” 

Many cities across OC spend half, if not more, of their general fund on police departments, while continuously cutting from other departments. 

Now that the novel coronavirus pandemic has shredded the economy and the local sales tax police funding relies on, cities all over are going to have to grapple with how to form a cash-strapped budget. 

Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno attended two of the protests in Anaheim this past week. He said many young people are asking for “the receipts,” which is slang for proof. 

“They’re saying we have receipts, it’s got the name George Floyd,” Moreno said. “And locally, it’s got the name of Manny DiazVincent Valenzuela and scores of others.” 

Federal juries in both the Diaz and Valenzuela deaths found Anaheim police officers used unreasonable force.

Moreno said protestors and other young people are questioning what the city’s investment priorities are. 

“The receipts show that budgets in local cities are well over 50 percent … 60 percent in some police departments,” Moreno said. “You’re investing  more in policing and suppressing these neighborhoods, than you are investing and providing opportunity and hope and concrete steps and initiatives to actualize the hopes and dreams of families who are in violently difficult conditions of property, hunger, dilapidated housing, overcrowded housing.” 

On Memorial Day, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin jammed his knee to the back of Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while other officers looked on. Chauvin and three other officers were fired, and Chauvin’s been charged with second degree murder and the other three are charged with aiding and abetting murder.

 Floyd pleaded with officers and said “I can’t breathe.”

They were some of Floyd’s last words. 

“I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry for police brutality protesters.

In 2014, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner, a Black man, to death. Pantaleo was arresting Garner for allegedly selling individual cigarettes — commonly referred to as singles or loosies. 

Garner told Pantaleo “I can’t breathe,” which were also some of Garner’s last words. 

Pantaleo was fired and a New York state grand jury declined to press criminal charges. 

Protestors in OC and throughout the country have chanted their names, along with waves of other Black people killed by police — including Breonna Taylor, who police shot and killed in March, when she was in her own home in Louisville, Ky. 

Police were attempting to serve a no-knock warrant on Taylor for a drug investigation and her boyfriend opened fire on police, believing an intruder was attempting to break into their home. Although the two suspected drug dealers police were looking for lived far from Taylors apartment, a judge signed the search warrant because police claimed her home was used as a drop point, reported the Courier Journal.

Moreno said the police killings locally and across the country reached a breaking point for local youth. 

“They’re now saying, ‘that’s it, that’s it,’” Moreno said. “The nation and young people are so focused on saying, right now we’re going to focus on Black Lives Matter because we have to and we should. It’s what’s morally right.”

Herrera said the demonstrations show there’s really no options left.

“I applaud the youth for taking to the streets and being heard, because they have no other options left than to be angry,” Herrera said. 

Thomas said the younger generation is more diverse and not as tolerant of stereotypes as previous generations. 

“This younger generation, they don’t have as much tolerance for the traditional views and they’re not as accepting without question the views of their parents,” Thomas said. “And they’re embracing their Black friends … they’re not okay with just being told that this is the narrative of Black people, this is the narrative of our country.”

Chapman University political science professor Fred Smoller said demonstrations in south OC show the changing demographics throughout the county.

“It underscores it. San Clemente — if you’re getting this type of visceral response … if you’re getting this uprising, that all speaks to the changing demographics, Yeah. I think it really does. I think it’s catching a lot of elites by surprise,” Smoller said.  

Smoller’s Chapman University colleague, Mike Moodian also said the protests reflect a change in OC. The two direct the University’s Orange County annual community survey.

“To me, this is really representative of a different county today. This is not your grandfather’s Orange County,” Moodian said. “This isn’t just Santa Ana and Anaheim, where you’ve had politically active voices for decades. This is also down in suburban, gated South OC — it just shows you time has changed.” 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.

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