Around 100 people gathered in Garberville at noon today to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest was organized by students at South Fork High School and featured speakers from the local community and Humboldt State University.
Lily Loomis, 17, was one of the student organizers. Loomis recently graduated South Fork and will be attending the University of California at Santa Cruz this fall with a double major in Art and Environmental Science. Loomis said her experience with the power of protest came from her work in the Earth Club, a student group that leads recycling efforts at the school, and that she has been aware of the Black Lives Matter movement since she first got on the internet.
“It’s the biggest civil rights movement in history,” Loomis said. “I try to feel pretty grateful about what we have here. The sheriff supports the movement, so do other people.”
There was no police presence in downtown Garberville as the crowd began to swell at the corner of Redwood Avenue and Church Street. Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell joined the protesters, saying she was “really pleased” with how people in Southern Humboldt had responded to the call to action.
“We’re all in this together,” she said. “Humboldt will not tolerate racism. I stand with Sheriff Honsal. We will not allow this abuse to continue.”
The crowd skewed young, with many students from the local high school in attendance, as well as parents with young children. With the exception of one man shouting about “being told what to do” from the window of his car, passing drivers were mostly supportive, honking and raising their fists in solidarity. The protesters marched south on Redwood Avenue to the end of town, turning and crossing the street to walk north to the sheriff’s sub-station on Locust Street. Marie Mills, 80, stood on the front porch of her store clutching a face mask over her nose and mouth and holding up a fist as they passed.
“I really support this movement,” Mills said, before beginning to cry.
In front of the sheriff’s station, Loomis invited people to speak into a microphone hooked up to a portable amplifier. She read aloud the names of black men and women who had lost their lives at the hands of police officers in the United States, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Taylor would have turned 27 today.
“It’s our job to protect people and put our lives on the line if we have to,” she said, referring to classmates at South Fork High School who "use the n-word with a hard r," with whom she had engaged in debate.
“It’s your job to call them, out,” she said. The crowd applauded.
Loomis spritzed the mic with hand sanitizer in between speakers. A Humboldt State University student spoke about feeling unsafe in Humboldt County as a Latinx woman. When sirens began to sound, the crowd briefly looked around and then stepped off the road to let an ambulance pass. They moved again when the doors of the fire truck bay began to roll open, allowing the truck to attend its call. There was a brief round of chanting, then the crowd left to rejoin a splinter group of protesters that had arrived late to Redwood Drive.
Jackson Gage, 14, was one of the first protesters to arrive.
A small group of protesters stopped and knelt while crossing the busy street, halting traffic as the crowd shouted, "Black Lives Matter!" A man driving a truck with two water tanks on a trailer waved his approval. Another man in a truck dabbed his arms at the crowd when traffic resumed. An elderly man who had knelt in the middle of the street was helped back to his feet by his fellow protesters.
Jackson Gage, 14, who attended the event with his mother, said he heard about the protest from his friends and family.
“I definitely want police brutality to stop,” said Gage. “I want people to be able to leave the house without being afraid because of the color of their skin.”
A June 2 announcement of the protest on Redheaded Blackbelt
drew 67 comments, some negative. Loomis said she found this “disappointing.”
“We had people saying we’re anti-white, but we’re mostly white kids,” she said. “Those are people who have access to the internet and the same ideas as I do. We can do better.”
Note: This event was also covered by Kym Kemp at Redheaded Blackbelt
. You can find that coverage here
Lily Loomis reads aloud the names of people killed by the police.