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Paddle-out at Windansea Beach protests racial injustice

Local attorney and activist Dante Pride addresses protesters at Windansea Beach on June 8.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Hundreds of surfers and supporters gathered June 8 at La Jolla’s Windansea Beach, holding signs and chanting in opposition to racial injustice and police brutality.

It was the third recent local paddle-out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd’s death May 25 in custody of Minneapolis police, a case that has sparked nationwide protests and resulted in a second-degree murder charge against one officer and charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder against three others. All four officers were fired.

“We want to send love and spread change for equality,” said Bettina Borrelli, who organized the Windansea paddle-out with friend Jasmine Thomas after the two discussed how they could help “create a platform for people of color to come and speak” in La Jolla.

Borrelli and Thomas were inspired to organize the paddle-out after attending a Paddle for Peace event June 6 at Tourmaline Surfing Park.

Hundreds of surfers and other supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement gathered June 6 at Tourmaline Surfing Park for a Paddle for Peace event to honor the life of George Floyd, whose death in police custody May 25 in Minneapolis has sparked protests throughout the country against racial injustice and police brutality.

“We were looking for more ways to educate ourselves in our community. We invite people with doubts or misunderstandings to come in a peaceful way to ask questions,” said Borrelli, a La Jolla resident.

The Windansea paddle-out began at 5 p.m. with speakers including local attorney and activist Dante Pride, who spoke about his own experiences with police and about clients he represents who have faced racism.

“The culture of violence, of brutality, is not OK,” he said. “What these protests have shown is what black people have known our entire lives. We have to call [the police] out, and this is the beginning. Black lives matter!”

Surfers, kayakers, paddleboarders and others gathered in peaceful protest for an evening paddle-out June 5 at La Jolla Shores to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Surfers then paddled out past the high waves while other supporters stayed on the beach to chant, throw flowers into the water and observe eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence, the length of time police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck before Floyd died.

A small table set up at the Windansea Surf Shack had motivational posters, flowers to release into the waves, information on the movement and suggestions for how to process “feelings in a peaceful way,” Borrelli said.

Many protesters at the June 8 paddle-out at Windansea Beach wore masks amid the continuing coronavirus outbreak.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

“I’m here to stand for unity and the rights of our black brothers and sisters,” said participant Nina Camille. “Change won’t happen until we organize and unite and stand for love and show that we are not going to sleep on this anymore.”

The May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, has been at the forefront of renewed outcry, anger and debate over race relations in the United States, both in regard to police and society in general.

La Jollan Bill Fitzmaurice, who is heavily involved in the surf community, said: “I support this peaceful paddle-out. Who wouldn’t? None of this is right or fair, and something needs to happen.”

Surfers paddle out at Windansea while others stay ashore to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Surfers paddle out at Windansea while others stay ashore to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The crowd thinned just ahead of sunset, and Borrelli, Thomas and a few others stayed behind to clean the beach of any debris left behind.

Borrelli said she hoped the event helped “people of color who have been oppressed to be heard with an open heart and an open mind.”◆