Hundreds march for unity across Long Beach in wake of recent gun violence

About 200 people participated in a 9-mile march from Downtown to North Long Beach Friday calling for unity among neighbors following a recent wave of violent incidents.

Tensions were high earlier this week after a street vendor was beaten and robbed, and a deadly shooting erupted at a vigil for another shooting victim.

Joey Fatts, march organizer, said today’s event is for unity. He said he’s hoping to bring communities together and show that “we’re all one” and stop the violence in the city. He grew up in Long Beach his whole life and has seen the tension, he said.

“It’s just always been a vibe of Long Beach, just like racial tensions, not even just Mexicans and Blacks, you got Cambodians and other races, that’s always been a problem here,” Fatts said. “And what better way to address the elephant in the room to get everybody here, to you know put it on the floor and start the dialogue.”

The group started with about 100 people at Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue at about 10 a.m. They marched about nine miles on Atlantic Avenue to Artesia Boulevard, slowly gaining more protesters on foot, on bikes and in cars.

Fatts organized the march with his cousin, Jermaine Bell, who grew up in North Long Beach and shared a more optimistic view of the city. He said he wants to combat the narrative that racism permeates Long Beach.

“I got to play with the Mexican kids, I got to play with the White kids and I don’t want them to portray us as, ‘Oh it’s a racist city,’ It’s not,” Bell said. “There’s a couple knuckleheads, but it’s not a racist city.”

Micheal Magaña, another marcher, shared a similar viewpoint.

“There’s always been racial tension, but when you go to school with everybody you don’t see color, you know, you grow up you get along you learn to just appreciate respect everybody so we just trying to spread that awareness everybody else,” he said, adding that life is important and precious.

Serena Sampson, a teacher in North Long Beach, said she wanted to join in on bringing people together because she sees the division everyday in her school and her community.

“It’s a constant battle and it’s like revenge back and forth,” Sampson said, adding that she understands that it would be hard to see the killings hurting families. “I just want people to wake up and realize that we’re all together and we should not keep fighting with each other. If they work together though, they can turn their communities around and make things better.”

Dawn Modkins, Black Lives Matter Long Beach leader, addressed the crowd about how they are fighting violence against all oppressed people.

“Take a look at your neighbor,” Modkins said to the crowd before they left to march.

The crowd chanted “Black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace” as they made their way toward North Long Beach on Atlantic Avenue. As they crossed intersections, protesters in cars and on bikes would forge ahead and direct or block traffic until they could cross. They were primarily met with either honks and cheers of support or honks of frustration. At Del Amo Boulevard, a group of children playing outside at the YMCA ran over to the fence to cheer on the protesters.

The issues the marchers were trying to unify over are longstanding. Community member James Marks has been fighting the racial divide since at least last year, when violence at Poly High School started erupting in the streets. Marks was among a group of parents and community members who patrolled the streets after school to ensure kids were safe as they walked.

“It all comes together no matter what color you are, whether you’re Black, you’re Brown or you’re White, it’s all about oppression, we have an oppressive system that is suppressing people, denying them their basic rights, their basic liberties,” Marks said.

After this march, he called for men and community members to step up and create support systems for each other.

“We have to be able to address the violence by being able to put different things in the community such as support systems, address the mental health and the other things in the community that can help move the community forward,” Marks said.

 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional quotes and information from the end of the march. 

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.
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