.Juneteenth March

Juneteenth march celebrates its third year

Around 300 people joined the peaceful “March Towards Love and Courage” Monday evening from the London Nelson Community Center to City Hall as part of Juneteenth. 

“The goal of the event is bring awareness of the last three years of the Black Lives Matter movement since the George Floyd tragedy and reflect on the current state of the Black Lives Matter movement in Santa Cruz,” event organizer and Capitola resident Thairie Ritchie says. “Today we march for unity, education and policy change.”

The marchers chanted slogans and waved signs such as, “Black and Asian Solidarity,” “We Must Stand Together,” and “Yellow Peril Supports BLack Power,” as they walked to City Hall where a rally unfolded.

Ritchie organized the first Juneteenth march back in 2020, in response to police murdering George Floyd. About 500 people showed up to march compared to this year’s 300, despite Juneteenth becoming a Federal holiday in 2021. Nationwide, BLM engagement has fallen since 2020: according to a Pew Research Report published last week, 51% of Americans support Black Lives Matter compared to 67% in 2020. 

Ritchie says that while organizing both events, he has found himself having to reassure “predominantly white spaces” that the march will be peaceful. 

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For non-Black locals who want to become more engaged, he advises, “It’s not enough to just support the painting of a mural and take a knee and post on your social media feed. It’s a commitment to making sure we uplift Black lives. This looks like making things more accessible, more affordable, and supporting legislation to those effects.”  

Racism is still prevalent in the county, as is evidenced by the Santa Cruz City Hall street mural that was defaced in 2021. The rally centered around that mural, which still has heavy skid marks across the length of the sprawling mural, evidence of the hate crime. A mural repainting rally is set for Saturday.

In Capitola, another BLM mural, on Pleasure Point, has been repeatedly vandalized since its unveiling in 2020. 

Ritchie, who passes by on his bus ride to work, saw the mural defaced and restored several times before being taken down. 

“There have been some successes within Santa Cruz city limits, but outside of Santa Cruz, around the entire county, I don’t feel that Black Lives Matter is fully embraced,” says Ritchie. 

He hopes to see a re-ignition of the conversation about public safety and re-imagining policing, an issue that came up in 2020 that has lost urgency since former Santa Cruz Chief of Police Andy Mills resigned. 

“We need to see your response as not just advocates and empathizes, but we need your support in helping as well as uplifting that light and the Black community in these times,” Ritchie says. 

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Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.
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