The Black Lives Matter movement reaches Ventura: VHS students respond

The+Black+Lives+Matter+movement+reaches+Ventura%3A+VHS+students+respond

Anna Guerra

 In light of recent national events, some of Ventura High’s black students make their voices heard when it comes to Black Lives Matter, police brutality, protests and more. 

“For years people of color have always been discriminated against, but I think the death of George Floyd was the breaking point,” said sophomore Simone Sykes.

George Floyd was a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis who was arrested on May 25 for buying cigarettes with an alleged counterfeit 20 dollar bill. Floyd was pinned down by three police officers, while one of them, officer Derek Chauvin, put his knee on Floyd’s neck until he died. (sourced from The New York Times.) The video of Floyd’s death sparked immediate outrage on a variety of media platforms, including a Change.org petition that has since gained over 16 million signatures in support of Chauvin’s arrest.

Chauvin was first arrested with third-degree murder, which has since moved up to second-degree. What defines each degree of murder? Infographic by: Anna Guerra

A chain of protests began in an effort to combat police brutality, racism, and justice for Floyd himself. CNN has reported that all 50 states have held protests, and NPR also stated that other countries such as the United Kingdom, Iran, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand have also held protests in support of the cause.

VC Star has reported on the peaceful protests that are being held all over Ventura County, with Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Simi Valley, and Ventura leading the way. A peaceful protest in Ventura County is planned on June 7 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ventura Government Center.

“I’ve seen too many videos of peaceful protestors being tear-gassed, maced, and hit with rubber bullets, [which] shows that police don’t really care if you’re peaceful or not,” noted freshman Belen Hibbler, “They don’t care that the system they serve is corrupt; it shows that they’ll do anything in their power to silence us rather than hearing us and recognizing our pain.” When asked about the protests and riots in general, Hibbler said, “I think it’s unnecessary to burn down and destroy small businesses, but I could care less about Target. Lives are worth more than buildings.”

According to PRI/The World, tear gas was banned in warfare after 1993, but is still allowed to be used for “riot control”. Additionally, The Insider has reported that most rubber bullets aren’t completely made of rubber, but instead just have a rubber coating with metal on the inside.

“It’s come to the point where we need protection from the police,” commented Sykes. “All the protests start out peaceful until the police interfere. You can’t end police brutality with more police brutality. Even more innocents are losing their lives because our president and most of the police force think that tear-gassing and shooting is going to silence the community. No one should need to be scared to leave their house and have to worry whether or not they’ll come back alive. What we need most is for people to see past our skin color and acknowledge the fact that we are people too.”

“This is a long-running battle for Black people and we have to break this chain and let them know we are there for them,” said junior Kimberly Lara.” We will not let them live in fear. We’ve had enough.” Infographic by: Anna Guerra

The Black Lives Matter movement is at the forefront of these protests, founded in 2013 after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Since then, it has grown into a worldwide foundation represented by a #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. According to their website, their mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”

“The BLM movement really was just awoken, the reasons for why these protests are happening [are] because black folks are just tired of being oppressed,” voiced senior David Kelley, “We’ve spent 400 years waiting for it to get better.” When prompted about the protests, Kelley said, “I’m all for the protests because they’re a natural reaction to injustice. We’ve seen that past protests for women’s rights and LGBTQ rights have been very successful. As for riots, I don’t condone them, but I understand. However, I’ve seen a lot of footage of police themselves starting riots by smashing store windows and planting cars to wreck them so it looks like rioters did. I think anyone who’s looting is being selfish and taking advantage of the situation for material possessions… in my opinion, it’s despicable considering the circumstances.”

Another message that’s being voiced at the protests is to defund the police nationwide. Some protestors feel that city funds are being misallocated and should go to other departments and areas. On June 1, the Ventura City council discussed the 2020-2021 budget for the county. Currently, the proposed budget has a total of $290.9 million with $40 million (13.7%) of those dollars going straight to police funding (CityofVentura.ca.gov.) In contrast, the Los Angeles City Council has proposed $3 billion (54%) of the $6+ billion

“[As an ally], I’ve been offering my support by posting resources and reposting content from black and brown creators so that I can uplift their voices, not speak over them,” said senior India Hill. “Offline I’ve been having those ‘uncomfortable’ conversations about race, and have also been donating and reading books.” Infographic by: Anna Guerra
budget to be used for police funding, according to Los Angeles Magazine.

“I think that nationwide police need to be defunded and that funding needs to be redistributed to black communities that are being targeted,” continued Kelley, “We know that reform doesn’t work because we’ve tried to have training for implicit bias and mental health, which doesn’t change their behavior. I also read that barbers go through more training to handle a pair of clippers than the police do to handle a gun and that’s what’s really terrifying. The black community doesn’t have trust in the justice system because it doesn’t work in our favor.”

Blackout Tuesday, a day of action and observance of racial inequality, has also been a topic of conversation. Originally created by the music industry, the public adopted the cause, although it produced a bit of controversy when used with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag since it drowns out valuable information with black screens instead.

“I think it’s complicating and overrunning social media but it’s another way to show that this is important to everyone,” said junior Selena Garcia on the subject. “Our generation is opening its eyes and speaking up for those who have been beaten down. We can all be bad, we can all be good. We are all capable of the same things. We cross a line when we think we’re different or [superior] to someone because of skin color.”

“More people than ever support Black Lives Matter and it puts a huge smile on my face,” said junior Renee Cafarelli, “Change needs to start with individuals… like staring at me because my skin is brown and my hair is curly, looking at me differently, thinking [that] I’m going to steal at stores or beat you up [needs to stop.] Stop assuming the worst of people.”