Eight-year-old Gabrielle Curtis sat with her legs dangling through the sunroof of her grandmother’s car Saturday, surveying the parking lot of the AT&T Center as the mid-morning sun beat down overhead.
From her vantage point, Curtis could see lines of cars all around. Some cars had posters attached to their doors or paint on their windows with the messages “No Justice, No Peace” or “Reopen the Cases.”
Curtis spent time earlier in the morning writing her own message on the back window of her grandmother’s car: Black Lives Matter. The “i” in Lives was dotted with a heart. More hearts drawn in light blue paint encircled the three words, filling up the back windshield.
Karla Broadus brought her granddaughter to the Drive for Black Lives event Saturday morning to teach her more about the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a topic Broadus is passionate about – she’s the Director of African American Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is teaching the school’s first Black Lives Matter course this fall.
“What better way to show students the movement matters then to show up here myself?” Broadus said.
The Saturday morning event was one of the many protests that have taken place in San Antonio since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
In the days after Floyd’s death, San Antonians met daily, often gathering or marching near the headquarters of the San Antonio Police Department. They repeatedly called on District Attorney Joe Gonzales to reopen the cases of Antronie Scott, Marquise Jones, and Charles “Chop” Roundtree, Black men who were killed by police in San Antonio.
Since May, the daily events have petered out, but organizations calling for reform have formed to sustain the movement. Twenty organizations, including some of the new ones, joined together for the Drive for Black Lives event on the National Day of Action for Black Lives.
Cars began pulling into the AT&T Center’s Lot D at 10:45 Saturday morning. First, drivers dropped off donations for the San Antonio Food Bank, and then pulled their cars into orderly lines where they would wait for the caravan to start through downtown to Monterrey Park, located on the city’s West Side.
“We’re going to take up the whole Commerce [Street],” event organizer Camille Wright said. “Even after they leave the car caravan, they can’t wash their car until they get back home, so they are able to go back into their communities with these messages.”
Before cars departed the lot, Wright and other organizers addressed the crowd over a microphone. Many of the drivers parked their cars and gathered around the speakers to listen.
They renewed their calls for the reopening of cases concerning the deaths of Roundtree, Jones, and Scott. They also said they were committed to the Black Lives Matter movement. Several speakers encouraged those present to register to vote, fill out the census, or provide feedback on the City’s budget.
Before drivers got back into their cars, Mario Salas, a former city councilman and the chairperson of the San Antonio Coalition for Police Accountability, led the group in a chant of “Black Lives Matter.”
In the sixth line of cars, 15 vehicles back, Tracy Grant sat in the drivers’ seat of her white SUV with three kids in the back and her windows rolled down. She hadn’t planned on participating in the caravan and only drove into Lot D Saturday morning to drop off some donations for the food bank.
But when Grant saw the cars lining up, she recalled the conversations she had with her two Black sons about how to interact with police as they grew older. She decided to stay.
Grant’s kids, ages 9, 10, and 11, helped decorate her car with signs, taping red paper hearts to the side windows. They wanted Grant to pass out the remaining paper hearts to remind everyone along the way that they were all in this together.
Just after noon, Grant’s white SUV was among the cars that peeled out of the parking lot on the way to Monterrey Park, with the cacophony of car horns leading the way.
It’s not unusual for San Antonians to honk in celebration at the AT&T Center when the Spurs win a game. This time, the honking out of the parking lot was for a different reason.