By Jennipher Vasquez
Public Attorneys United for Justice, an organized group of public defenders in San Bernardino, rallied their community to protest racism Sept. 6.
Locals gathered in triple digit heat at the San Bernardino Justice Hall to discuss the injustices caused by racism in the U.S. and the ways people can advocate for change.
Speakers shared stories about the effects of racism on their personal and professional lives.
“Compassion, justice, equality,” attorney Rasheed Alexander said. “That is why we are here.”
Alexander discussed his own views on racial injustice and the emotional difficulty of witnessing a cycle of police brutality.
“If you can continue to watch, without compassion, you have no soul,” Alexander said. “This is about our souls, the soul of our country. We are here to heal our souls.”
He and his colleagues also emphasized the need for nonviolent protest.
“We do this peacefully,” Alexander said. “This struggle, this march, is all about bringing peace.”
Protesters chanted the names of victims of state violence as they marched west from the Justice Hall toward City Hall’s statue of Martin Luther King Jr., the most visible leader of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and a proponent of nonviolent resistance.
Speakers identified the significance of the march beginning at the Justice Hall and concluding at the statue.
“We are here fighting for equality, which is why we stand here in the symbolic shadow of MLK.” attorney Thomas Sone, of San Bernardino, said.
Kenneth McKnight, public attorney and organizer, added that as long as protests remain peaceful the people will have a voice. McKnight also argued that police sometimes write bad reports, which district attorneys do not always look at objectively and went on to explain the community’s role in public safety.
“You have to go and vote,” McKnight said. “Create organizations within our own communities that can help strengthen us because we have to get better first. You can’t expect someone to treat you right if you don’t treat your own self right.”
McKnight suggested working alongside local groups and churches and addressed how professional athletes are inspiring resistance by boycotting games in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23.
“The athletes were the catalyst for me because they took a stand to say, ‘we aren’t playing,’” McKnight said. “If they can do it, then we can do it. You can’t go through this time not doing anything.”
Several allies, such as Robert Hansen, 34, of Burbank, came out in support of racial justice.
“I can appreciate being able to come out and use my voice alongside people of our neighborhood even if it hasn’t affected me personally,” Hansen said.
Some protesters said they marched to be an example to their children, some of whom brought their children along with them to the rally.
“I march and I come out here because I have children that also see what’s going on and we teach them how to use their voice for the right reasons,” Stephanie Marquez, 28, of San Bernardino said. “Even though this isn’t a huge rally like the ones you usually see, people are here for a purpose.”
Public Attorneys United for Justice plans on organizing more rallies with the hope of generating change.
“We need to seek justice rather than a conviction,” said San Bernardino public defender Brianna Ruiz. “Because Black lives matter.”
There was no visible police presence at the march.