As The Weeks Go By, An Effort To Keep Black Lives Matter Protests Alive
It's been 33 days since a police officer kneeled on George Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. As protests have waned in recent weeks, Etienne Maurice is telling people not to let Floyd's death go.
For three Saturdays now, the 28-year-old filmmaker and activist has led a walk/run for Black Lives Matter through his Mid-Wilshire neighborhood.
Maurice is keeping up the protest spirit awakened in him weeks before Floyd's death, when he first saw video from February of Ahmaud Arbery being chased by armed white men in Georgia, then killed by one of them.
"When I saw him, literally, fight for his life on social media, I lost my wits about myself," Maurice said. "Because I looked at that young man, and I saw myself."
Weeks later, the world would see how a Minneapolis police officer had killed George Floyd. Protests erupted, as people who have never demonstrated before took to the streets to lift an ascendant Black Lives Matter movement and call for defunding the police and dismantling racism.
Cries for justice grew as protesters chanted the names of Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks. In Los Angeles, the list of people lost to killings by law enforcement grew to include Terron Boone and Andrés Guardado.
But the crowds filling the streets of Los Angeles on a regular basis have noticeably thinned in the past week or so.
Numbers had dropped off for the Mid-Wilshire walk/run and the town hall that followed at L.A. High Memorial Park to roughly 100.
The flagging energy disappointed R.J. Dawson, who was at the town hall with other attendees, many who work in creative fields and are from the neighborhood.
"You want to know what democracy looks like? It looks like when we come out into the streets and we're making demands and we stay there," Dawson said. "We have to say, Hey, I am not leaving until you give the people what they want."
Dawson said protests are not a "fad" or "trend," and during the town hall called on white allies to bring more people into the fold.
"If you are white, and you took a picture of one of these protests, and you put up a hashtag, you now have the personal responsibility to talk to five racist white people and tell them they need to be out here with us," Dawson said.
Benjamin Abiola, an actor and activist with the group Creatives XChange, has been holding similar events in North Hollywood. He urged attendees to organize their own protests in their communities.
.@SirAbiola called on others to hold similar events in their community.— Josie Huang (@josie_huang) June 27, 2020
"Do it in Glendale, do it in Burbank, do it in Inglewood...we will literally plug you w/the people who will bring out free food, free snacks, t-shirts, amplifiers, speakers.” pic.twitter.com/qzunHEuRnO
"Do it in Glendale, do it in Burbank, do it in Inglewood," Abiola said. "We will literally plug you in with the people who will bring out free food, free snacks, t-shirts, amplifiers, speakers."
While activists such as Dawson expressed concerns that protesters have bought into the idea that they can wait until the November election to bring about change, others also promoted being proactive off the streets -- and in front of a computer screen.
Ivy Coco Maurice, Etienne's sister and also Miss Black California 2020, said she had homework for other protesters that included registering to vote and filling out their Census forms.
"If you guys don't pull it out for the next 10 years, your life won't matter," she told the crowd. "It won't be counted in your district and in your community."