LOMPOC, Calif. - More than a hundred people peacefully gathered in Lompoc Thursday evening to decry the killing of George Floyd, promote messages of unity and equality, and reiterate the need to listen to the black community.
The rally, organized by the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP, coincided with other simultaneous gatherings in Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
Several speakers addressed the crowd in Lompoc. Organizers and religious leaders spoke, as did Lompoc mayor Jenelle Osborne.
Osborne called Lompoc a "shining example to the rest of the world" for protesting loudly and peacefully this week, after a large march through the city Tuesday.
People of all races and backgrounds attended, including families with babies or small children.
“It’s good that we’re all coming together, cause I never used to see this when I was growing up,” said Kieonna Cooksey. “I’m a black woman. Growing up I had it a little bit rough in a mixed household… It feels good to see other people stick together. Just being able to be here, it feels amazing.”
“Not everybody thinks they should speak up and this is a time where we need to speak up,” said Lompoc native Dart Canley, who is also black. “George Floyd, that was the last straw, like, really. Police brutality should not even happen anymore.”
In the diverse crowd were several white women and men, including Charlie Blair, a retired Air Force surgeon in his early 80s.
“I think it’s important to promote peaceful demonstration,” he said, adding that he was ‘appalled’ seeing Floyd’s death. “I think it’s important for us older folks to stand up.”
Several speakers mentioned the importance of the younger generation--which made up a significant portion of Thursday's crowd--fighting for change.
“This next generation coming up, we gotta turn it over to them,” said local pastor and human rights activist Darrell Tullis. “We gotta be behind them, to push them forward. We gotta give them a better world. We’re turning over a sick world to them. And it’s sad, but we’ve got to do everything we can to make this world better for this next generation coming up.”
At one point, the crowd silently kneeled and raised their fists for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's neck as he died. Chauvin and the remaining three officers involved in Floyd's death have now been charged.
Tullis also asked those at the rally to end all violence in Lompoc, not just police violence. He says seeing widespread interracial unity at home and around the world during recent protests gives him hope.
“People who are not considered ‘of color’ and seeing them come out for a cause, for humanity, I mean, who couldn’t get behind it?” Tullis said. “Just seeing that made me, makes me want to not only come out but to continue coming out.”