More than 300 people marched down Broadway Street in Alamo Heights shouting “black lives matter” on Saturday morning.
Anthony Sanchez took the bullhorn and rallied protesters once the crowd reached Alamo Heights City Hall. The 25-year-old is a member of Young Ambitious Activists, one of the groups that helped organize previous protests in downtown San Antonio. Members of the Alamo Heights community organized Saturday’s protest, Sanchez said, but his group still felt it was important to show up and support their effort.
Having a protest in a historically white and affluent community like Alamo Heights allows residents of the area to see “the struggle we are going through,” Sanchez said. Saturday’s march had many more white participants than previous protests downtown, but that helps build bonds, he said.
“Being here allows us to create allies in the community,” he said. “Yes, we may have different paths, we may have different beliefs, but we are here today as allies and here to make change. Not just for me, not just for them, but for everyone and all future persons.”
Saturday marked the eighth day of demonstrations in San Antonio against police violence in the name of George Floyd, a black man who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes. Protesters marched from the Shops at Lincoln Heights to Alamo Heights City Hall, mostly sticking to the sidewalk to keep the lanes clear for vehicular traffic, though police cars helped block off a lane for marchers.
Bob Parker, 75, and his wife Ann Parker, 73, led the marchers on one side of Broadway Street. The Alamo Heights residents wanted to show up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement because it’s “heartbreaking” that people still have to protest police brutality, Ann said.
Bob was in Kansas City, Missouri in 1968 during the riots that were sparked by police officers using tear gas on students protesting Kansas City public schools’ decision not to close for Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral. On Saturday, he and Ann marched for similar reasons.
“My hope is it will result in legislative change at the highest levels of our democracy,” Bob said. “We have institutionalized racism and the culture needs to change.”
Celina Montoya, who is running once again for Texas House District 121 against first-term incumbent Steve Allison, walked hand in hand with her children on Saturday. She said she was proud to see people from her neighborhood proclaim that “black lives matter.” In a community like Alamo Heights that has experienced redlining and systemic racism, having visible protests is important, she said.
“This is my home,” she said. “This is where I’ve grown up. This is where I’ve chosen to raise my children. I’m so proud to see the compassion of my neighbors and friends.”
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood also walked with his sons down Broadway Street, sporting a cloth face mask with a flame pattern. This was his third protest this week, he said. He had participated in demonstrations downtown earlier in the week.
Hood is 60 years old and has experienced racism his whole life, he said.
“My first experience with a police officer was in Los Angeles,” he said. “I was 7 years old and with my uncle in a brand new car. Police pulled him over and assumed, because he was black, that he had stolen the car. Before I had only seen police in [the TV show] Adam-12. My uncle had to tell me to put my hands in my lap and not make any sudden moves.
“Unfortunately those things have not changed. I march because of that, because of my role in the city. But most importantly, because I have four sons.”
Hood’s oldest son has been accepted to all the Ivy League colleges, Hood said with pride. But he’s also tall and has tattoos.
“Every time he goes out I have to remind him how to act,” he said. “I pray for [my sons] differently because I’m scared of what can happen to them.”
Sky Ervin, a 16-year-old rising senior at Alamo Heights High School, took the bullhorn at the end of the protest when marchers returned to the parking lot in the Lincoln Heights shopping center. She led the crowd in round-robin chants – “Show me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like. We are what democracy looks like. I am what democracy looks like.”
Ervin said she and her three friends came to the Alamo Heights event to add their voices to the movement.
“I’ve protested downtown, but I go to this school [in Alamo Heights],” she said. “I’m faced with racism on a daily basis, always having to defend myself, defend my people. Today I chose to [be here] so people can feel me.”
“My skin is not a threat,” she called out to the responding crowd. “My melanin is not a threat.”
Throughout the hour-and-half-long protest, most bystanders cheered and drivers honked and waved in support. A few people tried to criticize protesters – one man even yelled “white lives matter” at the crowd as he drove by, according to Bob Parker.
And in the literal sense of the words, all lives do matter, Hood said.
“But if you can’t individually say and understand that black lives matter, then you don’t get it,” he said.
Another protest at the San Antonio Public Safety headquarters downtown is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Saturday.