After George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota earlier this year, energy to combat racism gained momentum across the United States, including on the Coastside. But La Honda resident Pam Patek wanted to make sure a few marches over one summer wasn’t the end of it. So she began attending weekly protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement organized by her South Coast neighbors.
On Saturday, Patek was among more than a dozen people who gathered across from the San Gregorio General Store at their weekly protest. They held signs for passing motorists and knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in honor of George Floyd.
“A group of us decided after the killing that we needed to be out there,” Patek said. “La Honda can easily be ignored, but we’re trying to make our voices heard.”
The weekly protests rotate locations every week between Half Moon Bay, La Honda, San Gregorio and Skylonda and are scheduled for every Saturday until the Nov. 3 election.
Organizer Sue Henkin-Haas said the protests are driven by the death of Floyd, and, by continuing them weekly, participants hope to keep up the energy to fight for Black lives and signal their values as a community. The protests also strengthen their network and open doors for future collaboration, and the small gatherings held masked and outdoors are a safe way to speak out during a pandemic. She said the weekly kneeling has become a silent meditation and time for reflection.
“Watching someone get brutally murdered for 8 minutes, it was so painful for so many of us,” Henkin-Haas said. “This is not a protest that is one time or four times. This is something that has to be sustained. To have a real paradigm shift, to have a movement that is going to fix things, you have to have majority support. Every single person has to be out there supporting changes in the law.”
Local group La Honda Indivisible, which was born out of the 2016 election, is sponsoring the weekly protests. Organizer Lynette Vega said she founded the group in reaction to what she sees as a descent into fascism under President Donald Trump. The group has a wide scope, from social justice to election equality to environmental action. This year, they are focusing on getting out the vote by sending postcards and letters to voters across the country encouraging people to register and submit their ballots.
Vega said the group’s more than 100-person mailing list will continue to work toward justice and progressive causes long after the election.
“No matter who wins, there is still work that needs to be done, and we will keep going,” Vega said.
Although there may be few Black residents living in the South Coast community, Vega and Henkin-Haas said they think supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is their responsibility, and so is supporting immigrants and other people of color.
They said that sometimes they hear opposing views, mostly from people arguing that “all lives matter.”
Henkin-Haas said she responds that if Black lives don’t matter, then all lives don’t matter.
Henkin-Haas said sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option for her. She sees the Black Lives Matter movement as a continuation of the civil rights movement. Raised in an Illinois town north of
Chicago, half her neighbors were Jewish, and some were even Holocaust survivors, she said.
“I promised myself that if I ever saw that level of white supremacy, I was at least going to step up and fight,” Henkin-Haas said. “It has lit a fire under me.”
For Patek, who said she can sometimes feel pessimistic about the world, protesting alongside her community is empowering.
“It's one way to stand up and say, ‘This is what I feel,’” Patek said. “To lend my voice to something, to be in a group that feels the same way, to know we’re not alone is very powerful.”