SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION)
Protests in Santa Cruz continue into Wednesday night outside the Santa Cruz Police Department.
As of 9:15 p.m., a group was gathered outside the department on Center Street chanting in the road. At one point they made a circle around a burning American flag.
This scene followed a much larger demonstration earlier in the day, where a group estimated at more than one thousand people marched through West Cliff Drive to Lighthouse Point.
“I was not expecting a huge turnout like this,” Leelah Maurer, who attended the rally, tells KION.
The demonstration was the latest in a series of rallies all across the country against police brutality and to remember George Floyd, who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody. The officer, Derek Chauvin, who was seen on video with his knee pressed on Floyd's neck, with Floyd unable to breathe, was arrested and is being charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers are also being charged, as of Wednesday.
The Wednesday afternoon rally in Santa Cruz was peaceful, similar to the others we have seen on the Central Coast.
“I like the fact that nobody is rioting, breaking things,” Robert O'Brien, a protester, said.
Police blocked off the road as the group walked and chanted. In a show of support, Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills said in a community forum Wednesday night that 18 officers "asked to be part of the protest."
People packed around an open mic where activists shared their thoughts.
The protests come as Santa Cruz promises changes. Chief Mills tweeted today that the department is banning the use of the "carotid neck restraint," a move Watsonville has already made.
“Although this wasn’t used in Minneapolis on George Floyd, I just felt that the use of the force is not necessary in our time,” Watsonville Police Chief David Honda says.
Protesters acknowledge that this is a positive step, but activism needs to continue.
“Also get more people to get actually involved instead of just going to the protests,” said Jordan Ware, who attended the Wednesday afternoon rally.