The NAACP Ventura County sponsored a protest rally on the campus of the Ventura County Government Center, on Thursday, June 4. The rally was in response to the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police on Monday, May 25.
Floyd’s death has sparked continuous protest marches for the last two weeks in large and small cities throughout the country. The protests have highlighted police brutality and racism against Black Americans and Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement.
At the Government Center rally, community leaders and civic officials gathered to acknowledge the problem and to gather support for social change, police reform, and equal justice in American law.
Regina Hatcher-Crawford, president of the NAACP Ventura County, said to VIDA Newspaper that “I stand here as a mother, as an aunt, as a civil rights leader, crying because I’ve watched our children die.”
Hatcher-Crawford, who knows from experience how African-Americans are often targeted by police here in the county (including her own children), has had discussions with police officials regarding eliminating such practices as the choke hold that was used on George Floyd.
“We were told by law enforcement that this was absolutely not being taught in the schools,” she said.
And yet there it was on video as the country watched a man die.
The other issue she wants to focus on regards officer discipline.
“How many times does an officer have to be disciplined before you start seeing that there’s a red flag here?” she asked.
In the case of Darin Chauvin, the officer directly accused for Floyd’s death, he had 18 complaints on his record.
Hatcher-Crawford insists that there is room for improvement here in the county.
“If you’re making police accountable for their actions,” she suggested, “maybe you ought to change the culture.”
Other speakers included Alana Burton Sheeran from Showing Up for Racial Justice, James Joyce III, District Director for State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and Quentin Floyd, George Floyd’s cousin.
Floyd, who lives in Ventura County, expressed his grief for his cousin and for those who have suffered similarly at the hands of police.
“The name means something,” he said. “It could have been any man on that ground.”
Also attending were Oxnard City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez, County Supervisor John Zaragoza, Ventura County CEO Mike Powers, California Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, and United States Representative Julia Brownley.
Law enforcement officials included Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney, Ventura Police Chief Darin Schindler, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, and Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten.
The rally was coordinated with the assistance of County Supervisor John Zaragoza and Ventura County CEO Mike Powers.
Zaragoza strongly supported the intent of the rally. He estimates that the rally drew more than seven-hundred people.
“We of the Hispanic community have supported the African-American community 100%,” he stated.
Zaragoza, who has been an avid supporter of public safety in the past, continues to believe in the integrity of public safety officials.
“Public safety to me is really important,” he said. “I think it’s important that we support public safety.”
However, he stated that it may be time for a fresh look at their purpose and mission.
“I also believe that some of the police need to be vetted properly,” he added. “They need to be trained properly. And probably the same thing culturally.”
Byron Ward, Chairman of the Board for the Community Advocacy Coalition in Oxnard, believed the rally to be helpful and necessary, particularly within the African-American community.
“I think it was an opportunity for people to express both their grief at the loss of life for Mr. Floyd and the other black people that have lost their lives at the hands of the police because of the color of their skin, racism, and brutality,” said Ward.
Not only to share grief, but to rally around the need to reexamine the realities that communities of color face with law enforcement.
“I think it was a collective chance to share that grief,” he said, “and the other component was a chance to come together in solidarity that this has to end—racism and violence—and that now is the time. It’s been going on too long.”
“In our County of Ventura there have been way too many Hispanics killed by the police. Our elected officials, our police leaders and our community leaders need to do something to stop that carnage on our people,” said Antonio Martinez.
The rally concluded with eight minutes and forty-six seconds of silence, the time in which Minneapolis police officer Darin Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
After the silence, the protesters circled around the Government Center chanting “Say His Name” and “Black Lives Matter.”