Two views in local demonstrations

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Approximately 40 people participated in a Black Lives Matter march on Main Street to Eisenhower Park, which began with a gathering on the Greenbelt next to the Red Car Museum. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

There were two demonstrations held in Old Town on Saturday, June 13: a Black Lives Matter march on Main Street around noon and a Support Our Police sit-in (on folded chairs) in Eisenhower Park around 4 p.m.

The organizer of one demonstration sees systemic racism; the other sees heroes who need support.

The Black Lives Matter march will now be a weekly event, according to Seal Beach resident and Main Street merchant Mariesa Hayes.

The Support Our Police event was organized by Cheryl Suddarth, a civilian whose son is a policeman and whose father “fought the Mafia.” Suddarth lives across the street from the section of the Greenbelt where the daily BLM demonstrations have been taking place.

March on Main

Approximately 40 people participated in the march, which began with a gathering on the Greenbelt next to the Red Car Museum. The gathering at that location has been held daily for more than a week. Most members of the group were adults, a few of them children and a few senior citizens. Most participants appeared to be Caucasian.

At one point, the group knelt on the grass and held up their fists. It has become a common form of demonstration to kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time it took a now former policeman to kneel on George Floyd’s neck, which ultimately led to his death in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

(Seal Beach Police Chief Phil Gonshak condemned the actions the officers involved in Floyd’s death in a statement published in the June 11 edition of the Sun Newspapers.)

Karl Kerr, a local man, stopped and held up the international sign gesture for love and said, “like this, not this,” briefly making a fist. Kerr later participated in the Support Our Police event. At that time, he said a couple of the girls at the Greenbelt gathering made the same gesture in return.

Some cars passing the group on the Greenbelt honked in apparent support.

The group marched from Electric to Main, then to Pacific Coast Highway, then across the street before marching down to Eisenhower Park.

The group chanted, “No justice, no peace,” as well as the name George Floyd.

Hayes later said someone threw a rock at the group. Hayes said she did not report the rock throwing incident to the police.

As they marched on Main, some passing motorists held out fists in an apparent gesture of support. One passenger in a car shook their fist, which was probably not a gesture of support.

At Eisenhower Park, the group again knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

A woman walking her dog waived her hand and said, “I pray for forgiveness.” As she walked past the group, she said, “He’s in jail.” It is not known who she was talking about.

A man in a car passing the kneeling group yelled, “shut up.”

The group replied: “Black Lives Matter.”

(Following the demonstration, event organizer Hayes said, “Our lives matter, too. That’s all we’re saying.” According to Hayes, an adult called a 12-year-old child an insulting name during the demonstration.)

As the group began walking back to the Greenbelt, someone yelled “We’re gonna take over.”

On Main Street, a man seated outside a business called out, “All Lives Matter. We’re all God’s children.”

Hayes described one of her goals as creating a shift in American society. She also called for peace and equality for all.

Hayes, who described herself as a bi-racial black woman, said she has experienced racism in this community. She said she has experienced more racism since “I began standing up for myself.”

That said, Hayes said people can change even if they don’t see eye-to-eye. “We’re born to love,” Hayes said.

The late afternoon gathering at Eisenhower Park was more subdued.

Support police in the park

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Support Our Police event was organized by Cheryl Suddarth.

Four people were there when a reporter came by, but it is possible more people arrived after the reporter left.

Suddarth lives across the street from the section of the Greenbelt where the daily BLM demonstrations have been taking place.

Suddarth has put up the display before in front of her home. She said she has received a lot of positive responses from neighbors who walk by her home.

Suddarth set up three signs and some folding chairs in the middle section of the park. The center sign said, “Support Our Police,” and the other two signs displayed photographs of police officers who fell in the line of duty. Suddarth said most of them died in 2019. However, she specifically pointed out David Dorn, a retired police officer who was murdered during looting in St. Louis.

Kerr,  a neighbor of Suddarth’s, said, “I’m a bystander supporter,” referring to the police. Kerr’s daughter is a civilian employee of a law enforcement agency.

Suddarth said she had the photos on the sign developed at the last minute. She said she wanted to show her support for the police. “I want them to know they’re appreciated,” Suddarth said.

Suddarth doesn’t support the anti-police, defund the police narrative. Suddarth believes police should be honored.

Suddarth said defunding the police would be the end of democracy as we know it.

Hayes, however, said she believes the public has been confused by the news media’s use of the term. “They don’t really need to disband or disfund it completely,” Hayes said.

Hayes called for reallocation of funds that go to the police into community programs. (The Seal Beach City Council is expected to vote on the final budget for the next fiscal year at the June 22 council meeting. The fiscal year ends on the last day of June.)

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