Monday in San Antonio hovered near 100 degrees for the first time this summer, but that didn’t stop people from gathering at Blue Star Arts Complex in the afternoon. More than 2,000 marched from the Southtown arts complex, wielding signs and raised fists, as local protests against police brutality and the killing of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd continued.
People held signs emblazoned with the words, “I Can’t Breathe,” “Say Their Names,” and “Black Lives Matter.” Monday was the 10th consecutive day of protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As the protesters made their way from Southtown to La Villita, they refrained from the traditional raucous chants that echoed through the streets. Instead, they raised their fists, held up their signs, and marched quietly. Business owners, restaurant patrons, and neighborhood residents came out to watch, some raising their fists in the air in solidarity, some clapping.
At La Villita, volunteers with Centro San Antonio met the sweaty crowd with coconut, mango, and strawberry paletas. Andi Rodriguez, one of the volunteers, said the icebox of 450 paletas was empty in five minutes.
The protesters made their way to the Arneson River Theater and filled it to the brim, with people standing on the edges and River Walk around it. Trevor Taylor, a member of Young Ambitious Activists, the group behind the protest, praised the crowd filling the amphitheater for their presence.
“You came out,” he said. “You spoke. You marched silently, you respected those in our own backyards. I’m going to say his name: Marquise Jones. I’m going to say Chop [Roundtree].”
Jones and Roundtree were both killed by police officers in San Antonio in the past decade. Jones, 23, died in 2014, while 18-year-old Roundtree died in 2018. Both were honored in an afternoon vigil and march on Sunday.
“We’re coming out for Charles Roundtree,” Taylor said Monday at the Arneson River Theater. “Because this isn’t a distant issue. This is something affecting the hearts of those sitting next to you. So we’re going to say their name; we’re going to say it loud because they deserve to be heard.”
Douglas Greene, a public information officer with the San Antonio Police Department, marched with the protesters Monday. He was there on his own, “as a human being,” he said, upset by the death of Floyd.
“I’m here as a show of unity,” he said. “I’m here because I love San Antonio, I love what we stand for.”
Before the protesters left the Blue Star Arts Complex earlier in the day, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) and former San Antonio mayor and U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro addressed the crowd.
The congressman advocated for banning chokeholds, as well as ending qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that can shield police officers from liability unless they violate clearly established constitutional and statutory rights.
He said he has been blocking H.R. 1154 in the U.S. House for the past year. That legislation would have allowed police unions such as the one in San Antonio and the one that fought against Minneapolis police officers’ firing after George Floyd was killed to engage in collective bargaining all over the United States, Castro said. Floyd was a black man killed on May 25 by a white police officer who knelt on his neck.
“We have to get rid of these collective bargaining agreements that allow officers to be protected even when they engage in bad conduct,” Castro said.
Julián Castro said he understands that many police officers may be well-intentioned, but the system is “totally broken.”
“Or some would say it’s working as it was designed,” Castro said. “We have to change it. Go vote in November. Hold your elected officials accountable. This lightning bolt of passion around this issue turns into real change in Congress, state capitols, city halls around the country, including our city of San Antonio.”
Taylor told the crowd he was born and raised in San Antonio. He didn’t see many educators or role models growing up who looked like him, a black man, “so I decided to be one for [others].”
Antonio Lee, another founding member of Young Ambitious Activists, urged people to help educate and guide people.
“One of my brothers said it perfect,” he said. “I’d rather die for this out here rather than be at home watching. We have a lot of work to do. We’re not stopping until there’s actual change.”
From the Arneson River Theater, protesters marched to the Torch of Friendship and then made their way to Hemisfair. They flocked to a grassy patch, gathering to listen to more speakers and to rest after spending four hours under the summer sun. Volunteers continued to call out: “Who needs water? Anybody need water?”
The crowd stayed at Hemisfair for about 40 minutes, enjoying the shade and the evening breeze. Some registered to vote with volunteer deputy registrars; some ate free vegan meatballs and drank lemonade; some danced as music played. Dusk settled as the crowd prepared to leave Hemisfair, gathering their signs, and collecting trash to put in garbage bags. But before they disbanded, they raised their fists once more and shouted, “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”