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Black Lives Matter protesters in downtown San Antonio dedicated the seventh consecutive day of demonstrations for policing reform to a lesser-known victim of law enforcement violence: Breonna Taylor, who would have celebrated her 27th birthday Friday.
While it was the May 25 death of George Floyd that sparked a nationwide wave of protests, nearly 100 protesters at San Antonio Police Department headquarters began with a 9-minute period of silence in honor of Taylor, a black woman shot in March when Louisville police officers broke into her apartment as part of a drug sting. The officers involved with Floyd’s death, which occurred after one knelt on his neck for almost 9 minutes, have been charged in Minnesota. No arrests have been made in connection with the death of Taylor.
Hundreds who marched early in the day dwindled down to about 60 people, who stayed at Travis Park through curfew. Gospel choir music played from speakers organizers brought along, and people took turns sharing their stories and inspirational thoughts. As the sun went down behind the Jefferson Bank building, protestors collected cash from those in the crowd to pool together to order pizza.
Ervin Lee, a music festival promoter who lives in Castroville, brought along his microphone and speakers, where he played tracks from Kanye West’s gospel group Sunday Service Choir.
Lee cut the music after a white man in his early 20s wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, stood up on one of the park benches and started yelling, “All cops are love!” The moment highlighted the only time the protest became slightly contentious as some demonstration attendees began shouting back and walking toward the man. However, Lee quickly used his microphone to diffuse the situation.
“Y’all gotta stop falling for these tricks,” Lee said, drawing the crowd’s focus back to him. “They’re two grown men. If they want to fight over a piece of paper, let them.”
The crowd dispersed around 10 p.m., which completed about seven total hours of protesting between marches downtown and the Pearl. During the earlier portions of the protests, hundreds joined the group at SAPD headquarters while organizers encouraged those present to register to vote.
Prior to the start of the protest and march, Organizer Lexi Qaiyyim said part of the day would be dedicated to Taylor and that organizers hoped the events would remain peaceful.
On the first leg of the march, which ended at the Bexar County Courthouse, protesters chanted, “Say her name! Breonna Taylor!”
About 2 miles away, a separate protest drew about 85 to the Pearl Friday afternoon, with people carrying signs and American flags as they marched around the perimeter of the former brewery and along Broadway. A group of about 30 police officers waited under the freeway in the Pearl’s parking area to “ensure things stayed peaceful,” one officer said.
The demonstration’s organizer, 23-year-old Alyssa Gonzalez, said she wanted to bring the protest to the Pearl because it is a privileged area – with trendy restaurants and shops and upscale housing. Gonzalez said she lives on the East Side of San Antonio.
“I’ve been protesting for the past five days, and it’s been in a concentrated area of the downtown sector,” she said. “… I would like to bring that message here, which is [to] people who ignored the people who live in [our] area.. … They could ignore what’s happening in downtown [and other parts of San Antonio], they could ignore what’s happening on TV, they can turn off their phones. But people who live in those areas, we hear the police sirens, we hear the fire trucks, we hear the glass break.”
First-time protestor Ken Ewell, a 54-year old black man, said he thought it was great that so many people of different races came out to advocate for people of one race.
“I think this is important for our city,” Ewell said. “ I’m really glad to see so many people out here today – I think this really represents what our city is all about.”
As the protest passed the San Antonio Museum of Art, the group chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!”
Back at the protest at SAPD headquarters, Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) stood before demonstrators there with words of encouragement.
“If you’re the kind of person who needs to add the word ‘but’ after black lives matter, you’re part of the problem,” Pelaez said before promoting a town hall taking place Saturday morning focused on race relations. “If you’re the kind of person that got more angry at a few windows getting broken than a man being murdered on TV in front of millions of Americans, then you’re part of the problem.”
When the group arrived, those gathered spoke about why they came to protest.
Eighteen-year-old Julianna Medina became emotional when she stood holding the microphone, telling the crowd that she had a miscarriage less than a week ago.
“God wouldn’t let me bring a child into this messed-up world,” Medina said. “I’m here to fight for my next child.”
Medina, who has lived in San Antonio for three years, attended Judson High School and made a point to attend each day of the Black Lives Matters protests, even when doctors recommended she get bed rest after her miscarriage.
After a few dozen others spoke, the crowd of several hundred began their march. With fists raised in the air, protesters walked on the roadway up Losoya Street and left onto Travis Street past Travis Park.
The group eventually marched back to police headquarters on South Santa Rosa Street shortly after 6 p.m. They sang “Happy Birthday” to Taylor and gathered in a circle to listen to University of Texas at San Antonio Assistant Athletic Director Charles Davis. He spoke about his experience as a Texas State student getting pulled over and beaten by a police officer in 2001. The officer said he pulled Davis over because he “fit a description.”
“What did I do to deserve that? My skin color,” said Davis, who described his injuries and said he woke up in a pool of blood with teeth knocked out.
“There could have been a #CharlesDavis going around. … You always heard about the people that died right? Well, now you heard about somebody that lived.”