‘This is for America’: Dozens gather for peaceful protest in Chula Vista

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Several dozen peaceful protesters gathered Thursday in Chula Vista, the latest in a series of local and national demonstrations following the May 25 police killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

Their numbers grew steadily from the 2 p.m. start time along Eastlake Parkway bordering the Chula Vista Community Park. Protesters held up signs with slogans such as “Black lives matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and “say their names,” and at one point some kneeled with local police officers, as has been done at similar demonstrations in communities across the country.

Organizers called for a peaceful protest, saying, “We don’t condone violence.”

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas joined protesters and officers in a prayer. The mayor told OnScene.TV she’s “proud” of the community exercising its right to protest in calling for systemic changes “in our country, in our communities, in our cities and in our own hearts and minds.”

“I’m here to support my community,” she said. “I’m here to support what they’re doing, exercising their right to protest the brutalities they have seen, not only with the case of George Floyd but histroical acts of violence against the African-American community and people of color.”

Los Angeles resident Donald Sparks, who attended the rally while in town visiting family, said the message of the protest largely was about “maximizing what it means to be an American.”

“This is for America,” Sparks said. “This is for the dream that is America where we all are measured by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. This is also for the next generation so they don’t have to make the same mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

In North County, a demonstration was planned in Oceanside near City Hall, while in San Diego, a youth-led group planned to gather at 5 p.m. outside San Diego police headquarters at 1401 Broadway, then march toward North Park and back.

Fliers promoting that protest state a list of demands from the group, which include banning the use of “military grade weapons on unarmed protesters,” firing the La Mesa police officer who arrested 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson near the Grossmont Trolley station last week, and reforming police practices to prevent the deaths of detainees and other citizens.

The San Diego protest is being led by “a group of black youths in San Diego,” according to the flier, which reads, “Please come at your own risk, as demonstrated at previous protests, the police are not afraid to engage in hostile tactics, but please come only if you are planning to participate in peaceful congregation and protests. The organizers do not condone looting, fighting or setting fires. Bring signs, wear a mask and come prepared.”

Though weekend protests in La Mesa and downtown San Diego started out peaceful before devolving into looting and rioting after dark, daily protests since Sunday have remained largely peaceful, with only minor acts of vandalism and minimal arrests noted by local law enforcement.

San Diego police said Thursday that Wednesday night’s protests yielded no arrests.

“We were at several locations throughout the day and all of the groups remained peaceful. Let’s continue working together San Diego!” a Thursday morning SDPD tweet read.

But authorities were not taking any chances. Around 200 members of the California National Guard were deployed Thursday to the San Diego area, with about half of the Guardsmen sent to La Mesa.

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