Updated, June 16: Dozens of people gathered outside Elk Grove City Hall on June 10 to demonstrate against police brutality on the day after George Floyd, whose death in police custody triggered a global wave of protests, was laid to rest in Houston.
The marchers assembled at Colton Park on Laguna Springs Drive and walked to the nearby City Hall and Elk Grove police station. After hearing several speakers, they returned to the park.
Demonstrations were held last week at the corner of Laguna Boulevard and Bruceville Road for several days. There were also protests at Miwok Park and Morse Community Park, on June 8 and 9 respectively.
Floyd was arrested on May 25 in Minneapolis for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby market. In a witness video, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneels on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, while Floyd says he “can’t breathe,” calls for his mother and ultimately becomes unresponsive. Three other officers looked on.
College students and friends Xavier Rivers and Malik Lewis organized the June 10 march in Elk Grove. As it turned out, Floyd’s funeral was held the day before.
Rivers said he and Lewis, both of whom are African American, wanted to give Elk Grove residents a local platform to speak out.
“I figured if we do a protest in their neighborhood, around people that they know from their community, they would feel more comfortable and more willing to come out and show their support,” Rivers said.
While in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the march was not affiliated with the organization.
Elk Grove resident Elizabeth Cochran said that she attended the march with her daughters to counter racism in the Elk Grove Unified School District. She learned about the protest through a school district newsletter.
“I just hope if we march past the police station (and) City Hall that they see a unity and that we didn’t just kind of hashtag and then move on,” Cochran said. “We’re still marching. We’re still angry about this.”
A few minutes after 10 a.m., the march began with protesters walking up the sidewalk. Rivers led chants of “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace,” and “No racist police.”
Marchers also invoked the names of other African Americans whose deaths have been highlighted as examples of anti-black racism, such as Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland.
When they reached the police station, the protesters stopped to listen to a speech from Lewisʼ mother Sonia Lewis, founder of The Liberation Collective for Black Lives. She advocated for increased accountability for police officers and more action on the part of white “allies” of black Americans.
“It’s important that if you are not black … that you recognize that anti-blackness is a thing. It is a thing. It is a thing. I am not making it up,” Sonia said.
The demonstration then decamped to City Hall across the street, where march attendees were invited to speak.
Co-organizer Malik Lewis spoke at City Hall about his experience with racism at California Baptist University in Riverside, where he studies kinesiology.
“I thought it’d be a safe place for me because it’s a Christian school,” Lewis said. “But I’ve noticed that for me there’s nowhere safe. Anything can happen to me because of the color of my skin.”
Lewis said he was in his room one night when he heard a group of white people saying an anti-black slur outside his door. He said he didn’t speak out then.
“I want to see black lives matter,” he concluded. “Because I don’t feel like my life matters, and it should.”
One theme of the protest was support for “defunding” the Elk Grove police. “Defund the police” is their call to redistribute police funding and responsibilities to other community services. Many proposals do not call for the complete disbandment of the police force, but would instead narrow its mission.
“Our ‘defunding’ means ‘reallocation of funds,’” Rivers said. “We don’t mean ‘defund the police’ as in, we want to take away from their salary or take away from things that they need to effectively do their job.”
He said protesters “just don’t understand” why the police department received 63% of the Elk Grove city budget in fiscal year 2019-2020, “when that could be put towards things that the community actually expresses their concerns about.”
During the evening of June 10, the Elk Grove City Council approved the city’s 2020-21 budget plan that includes an increase of $553,000 in general fund spending for the police department. More than $49.8 million or 67% of the city’s general fund will be dedicated to the police in the new fiscal year that begins next month, according to a city staff report.
Elk Grove Police Chief Tim Albright announced on June 8 that he is prohibiting officers from using the carotid control hold or neck restraint.
News Editor Cameron Macdonald contributed to this story.