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SLO, Santa Maria protests join nationwide outcry against police POC killings

UPDATE 06/02/20 12 PM:  San Luis Obispo city officials are holding a press conference at City Hall, with SLOPD Chief Deanna Cantrell explaining why she ordered the use of tear gas at Monday night's demonstration. KCBX News will have more on this story later today during All Things Considered.

UPDATE 6/01/20 10 PM:  San Luis Obispo police used tear gas on demonstrators downtown, dispersing a large crowd. 

According to KCBX contributor Michael Barros reporting at the scene, police fired teargas at peaceful protestors Monday night. Some in the crowd also ignited fireworks, and some protestors say they were hit with pepper-balls—projectiles filled with pepper spray.

After hours of protestors marching through San Luis Obispo—and after some officers at one point kneeled along with the demonstrators—police formed a wall on Santa Rosa Street halting the crowd from continuing down the road. 


According to Barros, many protestors were kneeling with their arms up chanting 'why are you wearing riot gear, there’s no riot happening here' as police fired tear gas multiple times  and sent the crowd running.


Thousands of people gathered in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara Sunday and Monday, joining the tens of thousands of people protesting police brutality and racial injustice throughout the nation.

"I have to be honest—I'm terrified," said one person to KCBX News as the demonstration was underway Sunday.

“I have experienced racism, oppression and microaggressions in every school I have gone to,” a speaker told the crowd.

“We have spoken out, we have spoken up,” said another speaker. "Nothing has changed. I say Nothing. Has. Changed."

The Central Coast demonstrations follow the May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

In the ensuing days, the community organization R.A.C.E. Matters SLO worked to organize the rally in San Luis Obispo.

R.A.C.E. Matters SLO board member Courtney Haile says Sunday’s event attracted the largest turnout the group has organized.

“I’m happy to give a platform especially to young folks, and to voices who aren’t often heard around here,” said Haile. “So that felt very good.”

For eight minutes and 46 seconds, virtually every person in the San Luis Obispo crowd remained completely silent and held up their phone flashlights—representing the same amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd's neck and killed him.

Protesters called out “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and other chants throughout downtown for about four hours Sunday afternoon.

Another local protest is planned for Thursday at 5 p.m. in front of the San Luis Obispo Courthouse.

Michael Barros is a reporter in the KCBX Newsroom. He has a degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, where he spent two years reporting for the campus news outlet, Mustang Media. He spent several months as an intern for NPR's All Things Considered in Washington D.C. Michael covers breaking news for daily newscasts, and creates features for the local broadcast of All Things Considered and Morning Edition. When he's not reporting, he's probably hammocking in a forest or painting.
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