On an unusually warm Tuesday night, approximately 400 people gathered at Pier Plaza in Hermosa Beach for a “Justice Vigil” organized by two local South Bay students, Dalia Feliciano and Will Smith.
The Tuesday night vigil followed a June 2 protest in Manhattan Beach where an estimated 1,000 people gathered, as well as a surfer’s paddle out on June 5 at Hermosa Pier and a children’s protest with about 500 participants that took place this past Saturday at Manhattan Pier.
The vigil was calm and peaceful as residents from the beach community and beyond gathered to show solidarity and respect not only for George Floyd but also for Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and others who have been killed by police in recent years.
Feliciano spoke to the crowd about racial injustice and shared her experiences growing up Black in a white community like South Bay. She encouraged the crowd to repeat after her as she said the names of the Black people pictured on photos that volunteers held up as a visual reminder of why everyone had gathered.
At one point, she asked for the crowd to take a knee and be silent for 8 minutes and 49 seconds, the length of time it took for police officer Derek Chauvin to kill Floyd when he placed a knee on his neck.
The quiet night air was broken by actor Cletus Bradley, a Manhattan Beach resident who was passing by with his young son on his shoulders. “I just want to thank you all for this,” he said. “I mean, really. You don’t know what this means to me right now to see this happening!” Feliciano and Smith, with their heads bent, nodded in agreement.
As the vigil wrapped up, battery-operated votive candles were passed out to protesters in the front, and Feliciano started singing “Amazing Grace” to the crowd, some of whom joined in, quietly singing along with her.
After Smith and Feliciano thanked everyone for coming and the crowd started to disperse, a small shrine began to form at the base of the clock tower that greets visitors when they enter Pier Plaza. Handmade signs, notes, flowers and candles remained as a reminder that these people’s lives should not be forgotten.