Protesters packed a park in City Heights on Sunday, January 18, to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day — away from the traditional downtown parade. Instead, the protesters, speaking out against police brutality, marched from the Weingart Library in City Heights to Malcolm X Library in Valencia Park.
United Against Police Terror San Diego, Activist San Diego, and the Coalition Against Police Violence were joined by a handful of other organizations. The ranks of a few dozen milling about the park grew to more than 100 by the time marchers took to the streets at around 1:30.
"We seek to both honor Dr. King and to remind the nation that the fight for justice and equality is far from over," said rally organizer Cat Mendonca, who introduced a handful of speakers representing the groups present and spoke in front of a banner listing the names of nearly 200 individuals "murdered" by local police.
"One of the most important steps we can take is to build mounting pressure upon our local and federal government to do what is right — elected officials must pass laws that will hold law enforcement accountable for every illegal and inhumane act they commit against the human rights of black citizens, the mentally ill, and those of lower socioeconomic status."
Organizers urged increased civic participation year-round and not just as a reactionary measure to events such as the controversial deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, or Eric Garner in New York, both incidents that sparked massive nationwide protests.
"Just as much as at these marches, we need to see you at public safety meetings, to visit the city council — we need to work every avenue," said Mike Jones of the Black Student Justice Coalition. "We need to stop playing defense, stop just reacting after another tragedy."
Not everyone was receptive to the protesters' message. A handful of police from the Mid-City station across the street were on hand to keep the peace and warn that marchers failing to follow orders would be subject to arrest (the march concluded peacefully, with a heavy police escort along the route). A homeless park resident who declined to be named shouted threats at the group.
"You come in here and piss the cops off and then they take out their anger on me when you leave!" the man screamed. "Get the [expletive] out of my neighborhood!"
Protesters left the park bellowing the chant, "We can't stop, we won't stop, until killer cops, are in cell blocks!"
A Fox affiliate in Baltimore was forced to apologize last month after being caught editing a clip of protest marchers to make it appear they were encouraging others to "kill a cop."