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Lessons learned by activists one year after La Mesa Protests

La Mesa protests May 30
Posted at 5:44 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 21:13:37-04

LA MESA, Calif. (KGTV) — Local government and community leaders will gather Sunday to mark one year since protests broke out in La Mesa, triggered by the death of George Floyd a few days earlier in Minnesota and the controversial arrest of a black man by a white La Mesa Police officer. The protests quickly spread throughout the county. In their aftermath came clashes with police, looting, and rioting.

“It’s been years, decades, centuries of frustration of people who feel like they’re not represented. People who feel like they have to keep begging for identity or to be respected," said Nate Howard, a community activist who will be speaking at Sunday's event.

Howard says activists have been learning how to most pragmatically channel their anger, frustration, and pain at racial injustice into meaningful action. “People need to be organized. If you look at a protest- I’ve been to a number of protests and after I say 'What are we doing now?".

Howard understands how the raw emotion can spill over into violence and looting, although he fears it is ultimately counterproductive. “I can’t convince someone that’s a white supremacist to accept me. 'Hey, look at me, I’m a young black man, please like me. Please treat me better.' And I think that is what we’ve been trying to do. And sometimes when it doesn’t work, [people say] 'I’ve been trying to convince people that I matter so guess what, I’m just going to burn this building down and once they see this building burn down, maybe they’ll care.' No, they won't. On the other hand, what does it create? 'Protesters burning this building down, the stereotype I had of them is true.' And it creates more of a divide. That is cyclical. That is what is continuing to happen.”

Howard believes education needs to begin early to create a positive way of expressing individual voices. "We need more lessons on civic engagement. More lessons on how to be proactive working with your city council, challenging law enforcement. These are things we can do on the daily. We don’t have to wait for an incident to happen.”

Sunday's Day of Rememberance is an invitation-only event. Other speakers will include Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, State Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber, and La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis.