In the middle of a pandemic, with near record unemployment, America is facing yet another crisis -- one that has persisted for generations. Last week, street protests and violence broke out across the country after a black man in Minneapolis - George Floyd - died under the knee of a police officer. In a country torn by political division and angry voices, we decided to reach out to people in our community to hear their thoughts on what’s happening and why.
Helen Rucker, community activist, teacher, senior citizen.
"Here we go again. Over and over, some of the same things that we went through 60 years ago, 70 years ago, when the civil rights movement first started. As an 87-year-old woman to have to go through all over again, what we thought we had made some progress. We thought, we thought because we worked hard on. You know, something has got to change and these young people know it. And I hope they're showing their respect for those decent policemen who are out there doing their best too. I don't know what kind of world we're going to leave my grandchildren to live in, but I pray for them and I have hope that they can do a better job than we did."
I'm Andy Mills, and I'm the Chief of Police for the City of Santa Cruz.
"I think all of us were collectively shocked and horrified at the... what took place in Minneapolis. I had a visceral reaction, it just literally... it made me sick to my stomach. After 42 years of policing, that takes a lot. I, as well as many other people, felt like, you know what, we really need to speak out about this. The decision I had made ahead of time that I was going to take a knee when that time came to send a message to the community that we want to de-escalate this, that we are on your side, that we are part of this community, that we view this racial injustice as as present here in Santa Cruz as well as other places. We just can't point to somewhere else. It's here, too. And so I wanted to send that message. Also wanted to send a message to my officers that we are part of this community and that we need to take a knee and be humble and contrite and to tell the community that we can do better and we will do better."
My name is Pastor Ronald Britt. I'm the Pastor of Greater Victory Temple Church of God in Christ in Seaside, California.
"The murder of this young man was uncalled for and could have been prevented if only one of the other officers would have stepped in and tapped him out. And we must, as people of color, we must continue to stand up for what is right and make sure that these officers are held accountable for their misdeed. We all have a right to protest. We don't have a right to looting. Thou shall not steal. But as black America, as people of color, we need to vote. Change is coming. Change is on the way. We can make the difference if we vote and we stand up, we let our voices be heard."
My name is Jeannine Pacioni, Monterey County District Attorney.
"George Floyd’s death was an unnecessary, brutal act of violence. I strongly condemn racism and bigotry wherever it exists in any form, in any uniform by any perpetrator. I denounce police brutality. Individual officers must be held accountable. The problem is violent police officers, not violent police. But individual officers must stop violence within their ranks when they witness it. Where there is a police culture of protecting their own, that culture must change. I support peaceful protest to force change. However, protesters who riot and destroy property harm people and create more innocent victims. Enough. We must stop the violence."
My name is Jon Wizard. I'm a member of the Seaside City Council.
"I see the anger and the frustration in our communities and I think our communities are finally ready to confront this issue head on. I think police reform really comes down to returning to the core idea that the police are meant to serve and protect us and not necessarily just to police us. So that looks like reprioritizing city budgets. That looks like more money for parks and rec programs. Looks like more money for youth summer employment and other anti-poverty measures so that people are not pushed into criminal activity. As a young black person, I would really like to look back in 10 or 20 years and see this as the moment that all of our allies, just everybody who has a soul, said that they were not going to allow this to happen anymore."