Posted on June 3, 2020

Protests Spread Beyond Big Cities, From Raleigh to Santa Rosa

Elizabeth Findell and Valerie Bauerlein, Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2020

In conservative West Texas. In Omaha, Neb. Across the quiet suburbs of California. The rage and despair sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody has spread far beyond Minneapolis, to communities of all sizes.

People took to the streets over the weekend—peacefully and violently—in many small and midsize cities that have seldom, if ever, seen large protests over police brutality.

“The nation has erupted,” said Kami Chavis, director of the criminal justice program at Wake Forest University School of Law, who called the outcry more intense than past protests. “What feels different to me about this time is that there’s so much solidarity across communities.”

Bethany Cannon, a 25-year-old student and bartender, organized protests that drew hundreds both Saturday and Sunday in Lubbock, Texas, a conservative city of 258,000 that is majority white and just 8% black. Ms. Cannon and others couldn’t recall another Lubbock protest with such crowds, but she called Mr. Floyd’s death a breaking point of too many police killings and too little change.


“It’s monumental for a town like Lubbock, and it’s monumental what’s going on in the country,” she said.

Such protests have been facilitated to a great extent by social media, making people in smaller towns and cities no longer feel separated from what happens on a bigger stage, said Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, a Catholic peace group based in Washington, D.C.


Other small cities saw violent eruptions that they don’t normally experience. The San Francisco suburbs of Walnut Creek and Santa Rosa, with 70,000 and 180,000 people respectively, were hit with protests that devolved into vandalism and looting Sunday. Police reported numerous arrests and are investigating a shooting that took place near one of the looted stores in Walnut Creek. In Santa Rosa, officers from across the North Bay area responded to assist local police in breaking up crowds throwing bottles, rocks and fireworks at police, the police said.

Omaha hasn’t seen unrest like that of recent days in half a century, said Thomas Warren, CEO of the Urban League of Nebraska and former Omaha police chief. {snip}

Carina Glover, a 30-year-old tech company owner in Omaha, said cases such as Mr. Floyd’s make her and other black people feel like sitting ducks.

“If they burn this city to the ground, I would understand why,” she said. {snip}


In downtown Raleigh, N.C., windows in restaurants and shops throughout downtown were broken in a melee following Saturday’s protest. The courthouse and other county buildings were closed because of damage. {snip}


In El Paso, a Texas border city of 681,000 that is 81% Hispanic and less than 4% black, hundreds of people marched from a local park to police headquarters Sunday. Malik Dado, an Army reservist and activist of Asian and Hispanic descent, said that though El Paso is a long way from Minneapolis, the community understands racial injustice; a gunman accused of targeting Mexican-Americans killed 23 people in a Walmart there last year.

“It’s all of our fights, not as black or white or blue, but for the American people,” Mr. Dado said.