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Rally calls for steady push for change

Eight different organizations with mutual concerns about racism and social justice rallied together for a unified event, billed as The People’s Rally in downtown San Diego on Saturday.

There was no wall of mothers, no legal defenders patrolling the perimeter, no announcement of who to call in case of arrest and no white-clad medics in attendance.

This was not a 2020 protest, it was a 2021 rally for change held two blocks away from where three homeless people were killed two months ago, three blocks away from the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation center and four blocks away from where San Diego Police blocked off the downtown station.

Speeches centered on topics like alleviating homelessness through mutual aid, protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation, standing together in solidarity to amplify demands for local, regional and national change.

Danielle Wilkerson is one of the organizers of East County BIPOC. She said their group has been working since last summer to try and affect local change.

“We’ve attended numerous meetings and at best we’ve been dismissed for our ‘radical’ ideas. At worst, we’ve had council members belittle our intelligence and question our knowledge on the subject, which is extremely disrespectful considering we’ve often done more research on individual agenda items than any of the council members who show up and vote as they are told to by staff members,” the organizer said at the rally.

We Stand United organizer KC Short of Santee reminded attendees the point of the event was to encourage action.

“I love protesting as much as anything we do but we also have to put in the work with mutual aid,” Short said.

Specifically, he said he’d love to see East County residents set up mutual aid events like “feeding the houseless” and helping coordinate vouchers to help the homeless community.

“Groups like We Stand United and East County BIPOC continue to give back to unsheltered residents and most importantly, our homeless veteran communities,” Short said.

Brandon Simmons, 25, said the event was deliberately organized for May 1, a date that has a complicated history in many countries but is generally noted as a day to honor trade unions and denounce unjust workplace conditions.

Gathering multiple groups was a way to “bring our reach together,” Simmons said.

Although he said he is personally scared to get up in front of large crowds, he planned the event out of what he believes is a personal obligation to his ancestors.

“If I don’t step up, speak out for injustice, who will?” Simmons asked.

A few minutes later, Simmons addressed the crowd from the steps outside City College with a slight quiver in his voice but said his pervasive exhaustion with social inequity far outweighs any fear of speaking in public.

“I’m more tired than I am fearful… I’m tired of seeing communities left heartbroken. I’m tired of people putting an emphasis on the results of a murder instead of asking about the reasons for the murder. We can’t become numb,” Simmons said.

When he feels himself becoming numb, he said, he remembers that he is descended from slaves who toiled in the sun picking cotton, relatives who were forced into segregation and required to have a separate bathroom. They are all in his DNA, he said, ancestors and the reason he continues to speak out instead of succumbing to exhaustion or numbness.

Af3irm San Diego organizer Roslyn Cassidy who advocates for women’s rights said in her speech that confronting white male supremacy is not as simple as looking for Ku Klux Klan members but destroying it in the modern workplace.

“Unconscious biases mean white men are more likely to be hired and more likely to be promoted,” Cassidy said, citing shrinking employment levels for women in the United States.

Advocating for local change, she urged San Diegans to sign a petition asking University of California San Diego Health Center to rescind job termination for two women who allegedly were let go in 2020 after they submitted claims of workplace discrimination.

Cassidy then directed attention back to Simmons who cautioned attendees participating in the event march to ignore anyone creating pushback on their walk to Waterfront Park, reminded everyone to focus on the event and not waste time on anyone wanting to get in their way.

Together, members of We Stand United SD, Af3irm SD, Stop Asian Hate SD, East County BIPOC, SD Protest, Direct Action Drumline and Feed Love all walked together behind a sign blazoned with ‘Be the Change – Be the Power’.

Source: East County Californian

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