UC Santa Barbara students plan to gather at Storke Tower on Saturday at noon and peacefully march to Sands Beach in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Monday night.
Across the country, protests have been held in over a dozen cities in the past few days in response to the recent killings of Black people, including Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade.
Students plan to march from Storke Tower to Sands Beach via Del Playa Drive, according to Michael Sanders, a fifth-year history major and the demonstration’s lead organizer.
Sanders said he felt the need to lay the groundwork for a demonstration at UCSB “to acknowledge that racial injustices in this country are a big part of the foundation that make up this country” and to give Black students at UCSB “more visibility and the feeling of being seen in this community.”
“I think the main message is that the Black community of Santa Barbara wants to be seen and heard. It’s just so hard for us to have visibility in Isla Vista, on campus, no matter where, which is why I chose to walk through DP to Sands Beach,” he said.
The demonstration is not being organized in collaboration with any student organization, as Sanders said he felt that tying the demonstration to a specific organization — or even “too much to myself” — could come across as “performative” and take away from its purpose of standing up to racial injustice.
Although he hasn’t worked out the specifics of the demonstration yet, Sanders said community members and UCSB faculty have been helping him organize it. Sanders said he’s been working closely with Mhoze Chikowero, a professor in the history department, who has guided him in structuring the demonstration.
After seeing the video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Sanders said he immediately felt “clenched with anger and disappointment” and took the day off from school to gather his feelings.
“I was tired of being here and not doing anything, and I had to turn my sadness into educated outrage,” he said. “And I felt like the only way that I would be able to relieve that is through reaching out to the community and starting something like this.”
After posting the information for the demonstration on Thursday night on Twitter, Sanders said he was only expecting about 30 to 40 people to be in attendance. But now, “hundreds of people might show up”; almost 1,000 people have liked Sanders’ post about the demonstration on Twitter.
“This kind of all happened really fast. I wasn’t expecting as much community support for this to really take off like that,” he said.
Organizers are also keeping the coronavirus pandemic in mind, as they are wary of spreading the virus through I.V.
Justice Dumlao, a fifth-year global studies major and former A.S. senator who reached out to Sanders to help organize the demonstration, spoke at a special Senate meeting on Friday asking senators to attend the march and said he would be there passing out masks.
In an interview, Dumlao said that he reached out to Sanders after seeing his tweet about wanting to organize a demonstration and offered to make flyers with QR codes to pass out to people who might not know what the demonstration was about, in addition to passing out masks.
“I work at Pardall Center and we are distributing masks, Mondays and Tuesdays 11 to 1 p.m., and because we have so many right now, and obviously it was gonna be a big gathering, I asked my supervisor if I could pass [the masks] out and I just got clearance,” Dumlao said.
Dumlao added that since the event is a march, it’ll be easier for people to maintain a safe distance from people they don’t live with, and that organizers plan to make an announcement before the march reminding people to do so.
Additionally, Dumlao said he offered to lead a group of non-Black people to be liaisons if police officers got involved and “things got heated.”
Sanders said on Twitter that he had been in communication with UCPD and said that officers told him that “they will not attempt to impede or stop the protest as long as it remains peaceful.”
With the demonstration scheduled to take place in less than a day, Sanders said it is his hope that the event serves as a reminder to “subscribe to the acknowledgement of [keeping] the Black community at your heart and to keep standing up against racial injustice.”
“You can’t pick and choose when to be an activist or when to support Black people. It has to be an all-the-time thing for sure,” he said. “Even if [this demonstration] encourages like five people to always be aware of the struggles that Black students go through and gives Black students the feeling of being seen here in this community, that’s definitely the goal of this whole thing.”