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Hundreds Gather For Peaceful Demonstration at Manhattan Beach Pier

Jun 02, 2020 07:53PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A rally in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and justice for George Floyd drew a peaceful crowd of several hundred people to the Manhattan Beach Pier on Tuesday.

The crowd, mostly wearing black and many carrying signs, was comprised of both local residents and out-of-towners, including countless teenagers and young adults, as well as parents with young children.

In anticipation of the event, the Manhattan Beach Police Department had shut down Manhattan Beach Boulevard west of Manhattan Avenue. The crowd grew from about 500 to nearly 1,000, as attendees streamed in slowly. Another 100 or more spectators watched from the parking lots above the Strand.

As per a plan that organizers said they had worked out with police, the gathering lasted for about 45 minutes before the group proceeded along the Strand toward downtown Hermosa Beach, where the group gathered again at the pier plaza. By the time the group reached Hermosa, police estimated the crowd at about 1,000.

The organizers included three young adults who spoke at the event, and all three said they either lived in Manhattan Beach or had attended Manhattan Beach schools: Jamal Williams, age 20; as well as Dalia, age 19 and Malichai, age 18, who did not want to give their last names, saying that the event was not about them.

The rally began and ended with upbeat chants of "Black Lives Matter."

"We just came here to be peaceful and send a positive message," said Malichai.  He described his positive experiences in Manhattan Beach, but also his difficulty feeling completely accepted, worried that someone might see him "as a thug or a criminal." He added, "I don't blame anyone... But you know what? I'm tired... The time to change is right now. All my youngsters, the new generation, we’re going to lead that change."

"This is not about our grievances about the city of Manhattan Beach," added Dalia. "This is about Black and Latino youth - the leaders of tomorrow. We are advocating for the generations of our future."

Organizers led the group in a chant: "Empathize. Embrace. Empower," which was followed by attendees kneeling in prayer for Floyd's family and for justice and peace.

Actor Phil Morris, a Manhattan Beach resident, was one of the speakers at the rally.

"I am from this neighborhood; I am proud of everybody who came out here to protest in this manner," said Morris. "This is what it's about. Do you see the diversity here? You see the love that's being shown from every corner? And I want to thank our police department for showing restraint, and for showing understanding, and for understanding me while I've been here for 30 years. I have lived here in peace; I have lived here in love; and I want Manhattan Beach to be recognized for that."

Morris added: "Those of you who are young out here that are going through this kind of thing for the first time in your lives - you are what gives me hope, because you have a [fresh] take on this," he said. "You're not beaten down and bruised and cauterized and numb to this from either side. We rely on you to bring fresh voices. we rely on you to bring order and civility. You're going to be here long after me. So who do you want to be? What do you want to live in? Let's live together in love."

Late in the event, an elementary-school-aged boy dressed for the beach in a Snoopy T-shirt and shorts gave a brief and impassioned speech in favor of equality for people of all races. "No one's going to clean up our mess but us," he declared, to exuberant cheers from the crowd.

At the conclusion of the protest, hundreds marched on the bike path and the Strand toward Hermosa Beach.

Tensions in Manhattan Beach

The city of Manhattan Beach has experienced a tense few days as violent protests have continued throughout Los Angeles. Many Manhattan Beach businesses have been boarded up since Sunday as a precaution against rioters or looters. 

Manhattan Beach Police Chief Derrick Abell had issued a statement on Sunday calling for peace and mutual understanding.

At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting, Abell expressed appreciation for a smooth and uneventful gathering.

"We wanted to make it as safe as we could for everyone. It was a success in that regard," said Abell. "They were able to get their message out; everyone seemed to be peaceful. I appreciate everyone that helped out and participated to make this a successful event."

Manhattan Beach city council member Steve Napolitano was effusive in his praise for Abell. "In my thirty years in public service I have never been prouder of the Manhattan Beach police than I I have today," he said. "Their leadership - how they were out there for everybody - That’s what they were meant to do. They did an incredible job," he said. 

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