They came wearing tee-shirts that shouted for justice. They came holding placards denouncing racism. They came pushing baby strollers and helping the infirm find a spot of shade at Kennedy Plaza outside Long Beach City Hall in the twilight of a Thursday afternoon
They were white, black, Hispanic, and Asian-American, young middle-aged, and elderly. Men and women and children. No matter who or what they were, they came mesmerized by the drive to speak out after the brutal murder of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer put a knee to his neck and held it there for nearly nine minutes. Until Floyd could no longer breath,.
Some 500 people turned out for yet another rally in the city, this one organized by James Hodge, chairman of the MLK Center on Riverside Boulevard. There was another rally earlier in the week on the boardwalk that also drew hundreds.
Hodge led them from the MLK Center on an 11-minute walk to Kenndy Plaza, leading the crowd in chants.
"What's his name?" Hodge's voice boomed down the street.
"George Floyd," the crowd roared back.
"What do we want?" Hodge asked,.
"Justice," they chanted.
"When we do want it?"
Waiting patiently for the protestors was 11-year-old Aaliyah Trichter, who was holding a sign that read "Silence Is Violence."
"I just don't think it's fair the way blacks are mistreated," Aaliyah said.
"I want to see solidarity," said Ann Ryan, who came to the U.S. 20 years ago from London, and still sports an English accent. "I'd like to see the system change, I want accountability from the police."
Anissa Moore, a fomer Long Beach city council member and the first black woman ever to hold that post, drew the crowd into cheers and yells.
"We are tired of dying," Moore said. "We are tired of telling our children, You can't walk there. You can't run there either. We can't sit in our own houses. We can't sit in our own cars...We cooked for other soldiers because they didn't want black soldiers in the Army. But we did it all because we thought better things were coming. We need to draft a system that will affirm our school children, right here in the city of Long Beach."
Alonzo Hodge, James's' bother, came to tears as he said, "I didn't come here today for a parade. If you came here only for George Floyd, exit left. This is about black lives. We've been crying since Emmett Till," a 14-year0old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of offending a white woman onm the street.
"This is not a game," Alonzo Hodge said.,"I came here for real change."
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach Democrat, noted that he was born and raised in the city and that he "loved growing up in a diverse" place. He said he had been tormented by the memory of Floyd's death, with a police officer pressing his neck. The officer, Derek Chauvin, Kaminsky noted, kept one of his hands in his pocket as if the whole episode were not of much importance,
"It's not enough to say we hope for reform," Kaminsky said. "Let's make them reform."
"Let us breathe," said Rabbi Eli Goodman of the Chabad of the Beaches. Some of Floyd's last words were, "I can't breathe."
Seven-year-old twins Alivia and Nicholas Taurean, both African-Americans, pulled at their face masks as they listed to the speakers, occasionally engaging in earnest conversation, punctuated by laughter.
Asked why she was there, Alivia thought a moment, then said, ''Cause I want to be here for a better future for black people."