“Black lives matter, not Black Friday,” was the message approximately 100 protesters brought to the streets and shops of downtown San Diego the Friday after Thanksgiving. Activists from United Against Police Terror, Justice or Else, and the University of San Diego’s Black Student Union rallied at the Hall of Justice for a news conference before marching. Several speakers spoke about what they called an epidemic of police violence against people of color, and said this warranted more attention than Black Friday sales.
The action was held at the same time marchers in Chicago continued their protests of the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer following the release of video of the incident.
Also present was Alyahe Ali-McCall, cousin of Anthony Ashford, a black man killed by San Diego Harbor police on Oct. 27.
“I never thought my cousin, coming to the San Diego area to visit a family member, would not return,” Ali-McCall said, standing behind a bank of microphones. “I thought the police were here to protect and serve, so why is my cousin dead at 29?”
Police said Ashford attacked a police officer after being seen looking into cars in a parking lot on North Harbor Drive.
Marchers made their way to the corner of F and 5th Street where, on Oct. 20, Lamontez Jones was shot and killed by San Diego police after allegedly pointing a replica handgun at them. The officers did not turn on their body cameras, a matter of contention among many in the community. It was the second police shooting in six months where SDPD officers failed to activate their body cameras.
After a short “die-in” at the intersection, protesters made their way to Westfield Horton Plaza mall, marching through several levels before stopping on the main floor to bring their message to shoppers.
Rayne Ibarra-Brown, a member of the Black Student Union at USD, read a list of demands through a bullhorn.
“We’re in the mall to remind them black lives should be getting more press and attention that Black Friday deals,” Ibarra-Brown said. “But also, where did this consumer culture come from, (and) what foundation was it built on? Slavery.”
Not all bystanders agreed with the message.
Johnny Pantoja, visiting San Diego for the first time, was surprised to see protesters out at the mall.
“I wasn’t expecting anything to get this intense out here for some shopping,” Pantoja said. “I heard like five different chants that had nothing to do with each other. They just annoyed everybody.”
Other shoppers took exception to the notion of “black lives matter.”
“All lives matter,” said shopper Herb Hernandez in response to the protesters’ chant. “They should’ve done all lives matter. That makes more sense to me.”
Ibarra-Brown explained to the significance of the phrase.
“All lives do matter. It’s absolutely true,” she said. “The thing is that hasn’t been the way our society has functioned. ‘Black lives matter’ is not exclusive, it’s inserting ourselves into the narrative. Black lives have mattered significantly less than others, and so to say ‘all lives matter’ is to erase that struggle, and erase our erasure.”
No arrests were made during the protest, and after about 20 minutes, the group left the mall and returned to the Hall of Justice.