FULLERTON — For the second consecutive day, protesters flooded the steps outside Fullerton City Hall on Sunday as part of the nationwide movement against systemic racism and police brutality.
Fullerton police estimated 1,200 peaceful protesters marched on the street of Downtown Fullerton east of Commonwealth Avenue. They chanted and held up posters while cars passed and honked in support, as the participants circled back to city hall.
The demonstration was organized by the activist group Upset Homegirls, which is led by college students Laryssa Odd, Ariel Parker, Brandy Factory, Esther Fagbamila and Tylyn Holmes.
The idea for a local protest arose as the four friends were riding home from a rally in Anaheim according to Fagbamila. She said the group knew that Fullerton needed a demonstration because if there was a problem outside of the community it may also occur within.
“They’re supposed to unify, they’re supposed to show that people power exists. It’s not just the government, it’s not just the systems that are put in place, it is people power that built those systems so we can also dismantle them,” Fagbamila said.
The group said they hope that Fullerton’s City Council will defund the police department or avoid allocating 47% of its funds to them, as well as rename Louis E. Plummer Auditorium. The auditorium is currently named after a former superintendent who was a member of the Fullerton Ku Klux Klan.
The organizers had notified the Fullerton Police Department of the demonstration beforehand, prompting police cars to trail behind the demonstrators. Roads were blocked off to allow the group to walk along main and residential streets.
Volunteers from the group followed the crowd and picked up any garbage left behind in order to keep the pavement clean.
Many residents came out of their homes and employees stood at their business doors with raised fists to show their solidarity as protesters continued their march.
Fullerton Sgt. Eric Bridges said that it was a well-organized event as no arrests were made nor any incidents of note happened during the protest.
“This was a great example of how people can exercise their First Amendment rights and do so peacefully,” Bridges said.
At about 3 p.m., the participants took a knee with raised fists and heads bowed for a moment of silence to commemorate victims of police brutality.
Mei-Ling Malone, a Cal State Fullerton African-American studies professor, was one of several speakers in attendance.
Malone said the policing system is not broken because it has been designed to protect and serve the country’s capitalist white power structure. She called onto the people to be unafraid of radical change and to reject the culture of violence and racism.
“Our political and economic structure was founded and continues to operate on degrading, criminalizing and dehumanizing black people and we need to fully own up to this,” Malone said. “No more denying or deflecting systemic white supremacist violence and no more trying to minimize these tragedies as isolated events.”
Lolitha Jones, a local activist, said she has been advocating against police brutality for many years, which resulted in a hurt knee due to how much she has marched. After George Floyd’s death, Jones said she decided to come out of retirement to stand in solidarity with her community.
“This did not just start yesterday. This did not start when George Floyd was murdered by the police, this has been going on for way too long,” Jones said. “I have been out there and I thought I could retire, I thought it was over, but it’s never over.”
Amid the mass of participants, the CSUF Black Student Union’s outgoing president Bethany Whittaker said she knows that protests, as they have done in the past, will create systemic change.
Whittaker added that the event is personal to her because of the countless times she has heard of KKK members disrupting the peace, even recalling a situation where the BSU was verbally assaulted while taking pictures in front of city hall.
“I hope that we can live in Orange County and live amongst one another peacefully,” Whittaker said.