While Colusa County is a small rural county with just a small African American population, a local political action group said they would stand with protesters around the U.S. who are working to root out racism from all institutions and end police brutality in all communities.
The local protest got underway at 9 AM on Monday in front of the Williams Starbucks on E Street, with organizers planning to continue daily through Friday.
About a dozen people in masks, while keeping a physical distance of at least six feet, lined the sidewalk in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, after protests erupted throughout the county in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed May 25 under the weight of a Minnesota police officer, who continued to press his knee to Floyd’s neck even after the man had stopped breathing.
“I’m personally here because I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered and, frankly, that seemed like a modern day lynching to me,” said Jennifer Roberts, of Arbuckle. “I couldn’t watch that and do nothing.”
Roberts, who formed Indivisible Colusa County a few years ago to promote progressive policies, said she was elated Monday when the others joined her to support Black Lives Matter, a movement that was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of a Neighborhood Watch coordinator who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012.
One of the protesters to join Roberts held a sign with Floyd’s name and 19 other African American citizens killed during encounters with police or in direct custody, including Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson, and Stephen Clark.
Garner was killed in 2014 when a police officer’s choke-hold triggered a fatal asthma attack, according to the medical examiner. Anderson, while suffering a mental break, stopped breathing in 2014 as police restrained her face down in her yard. Clark, a 22-year-old Sacramento man was shot and killed in the backyard of his grandmother’s house in 2018 by police officers, who mistook a cell phone for a gun.
Roberts said their deaths, something she believes is murder by police, made her feel bad when she learned of them, but she did nothing previously to act.
“I’ve reached the point where I need to speak out and say we need change in our society,” she said.
Roberts said that while the nationwide protest is largely about police misconduct, racism in this country runs much deeper.
“Racism is systemic in every part of our society,” she said. “As a white person, as a white woman, it is my responsibility to speak out and make change happen. It’s not on other people; it’s on me. Does standing out here with a sign make a difference? I don’t know, but it’s a start to raising awareness and getting people talking.”
As a group, Indivisible Colusa County hopes to open dialog and host meetings with local law enforcement to learn what the local police practices are in Colusa County, including training and techniques, and the use of choke-holds, which is now banned. The group has honored the state’s stay-at-home directive and met only virtually the past three months, but plan to become active again when the risk of COVID-19 has passed.
The group has also started talking with state legislators about taking campaign donations from police unions and law enforcement PACs. Last week, a coalition of California District Attorneys called for the State Bar of California to ban the taking of police union money and endorsements in prosecutorial elections, which they say create ethical conflicts when police are prosecuted for misconduct.
“I can’t say I know personally all the law enforcement issues here in Colusa County, but I want to start learning,” Roberts said.
Indivisible will continue their protest through Friday for one hour each morning, or possibly longer if others join them.
“We’re looking for change and accountability,” Roberts said.
A young Colusa County woman has scheduled a separate protest for Tonight from 5-7 PM on 10th Street, in Colusa, which Indivisible members plan to join in order to support the teen, especially after a deliberately altered version of her graphic circulated on social media.
Organizers said Wednesday’s event is a peaceful protest, and encourage all who attend to wear masks, bring their own signs, keep a physical distance of six feet, stay on the sidewalk, be respectful of everyone’s rights, and keep the area clean. ■