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The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

How this summer’s BLM protests reached thousands using social media

Jones stresses the importance of keeping the protests he helps organize safe and family friendly
Photo courtesy of OC For Black Lives

Over the past summer, protests and demonstrations seeking justice have ballooned in size and scale in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, creating a massive wave of momentum for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Social media accounts have used this momentum to organize BLM events and bring together thousands to demand change. Inside Fullerton reached out to local activist groups to hear their stories and get the inside look at how they’ve done it.

Planning a protest

First is formulating a call to action. This process includes reaching out to everyone who is part of the planning process and declaring a mission statement.

Justice Crudup, founder of the OC Justice Initiative, explains that for many individuals this year, this was their first-ever protest. So working out what the rally is for, who is leading it and what the desired outcome is are all important parts of this step.

After this, organizers need to nail down the location of the event. That means, sometimes, acquiring a permit from the city. According to the ACLU, most gatherings do not require a permit and are protected by the First Amendment. There are some exceptions, like marches and parades that require the blocking of traffic and closing of roads, rallies that make use of sound amplifiers like megaphones and speakers and rallies over a certain size in parks and plazas.

Next up is acquiring supplies and resources. This means getting megaphones, putting up posters and flyers and figuring out power for equipment like speakers. These organizers use every resource they have to pull these events off.

One crucial step in this process is addressing the pandemic. Andre Jones, co-founder of OC For Black Lives, explains that masks, social distancing, being outside in open areas and the dispersal of hand sanitizer are major priorities to him. He also explains how community members were helping bring water and hand sanitizer. 

The final step, according to Crudup, is ensuring there is a sufficient amount of peacekeepers at the event. Crudup explains this means having individuals on the front lines of the protest with orange reflector jackets when crossing through intersections. 

Justice Crudup, founder of the OC Justice Initiative, is focusing on demonstrations that lead to legislation
Photo courtesy of the OC Justice Initiative

Background 

Crudup noticed the massive influx of demonstrations all over Orange County but was concerned about the long-term effects of them. While demonstrations bring well-needed awareness, they also need to lead to legislation. So he stepped up, using his education in political science and his experience in law offices to create the OC Justice Initiative. 

His organization—which is in the last phases of becoming a registered non-profit—has organized many BLM demonstrations in Orange County and participated in many educational events such as their recent “Black Activism and the Pursuit of Justice” summit event in partnership with Chapman University. Crudup often speaks at these events advocating for social justice.

Like Crudup, Jones is pushing for long term change, and they are seeing the beginnings of it. Officials like the newly elected Mayor of Irvine Farrah Khan, Irvine Councilwoman Melissa Fox, and Irvine Councilmember-elect Tammy Kim are some of the officials that OC For Black Lives has talked to about improving police, housing, economic and hiring policies.

But he wasn’t always an activist. Jones’ reasons for getting involved weren’t just political, they were personal: “The death of George Floyd really pushed me to just answer the call and speak up… And say how I was feeling as a Black queer man myself.”

Andre Jones was inspired to act after the killing of George Floyd, now he leads protests demanding justice. Photo courtesy of OC For Black Lives

The role of social media: pros and cons

According to Jones, without social media, the scale of these events wouldn’t have been the same. Social media allowed the message to be carried far and gave access to everyone on where and how to get their voices heard.

Jones emphasized the importance of explaining to those who see the social media posts understand that everyone who would attend these protests would be safe. For him and OC for Black Lives, making the events peaceful and family-friendly was always a focus. 

However, the accessibility and reach of posts were both helpful and harmful.

There have been instances of individuals within social justice groups relaying information to the police. This caused OC Social Justice Initiative to start using alternative apps to communicate. They had to use apps like Discord—which allows users to create servers to communicate in—to try and prevent imposters from snooping in on organizational conversations.

Crudup explains that there is a very diverse demographic of people who show up to these protests, many of whom would rather not have police present due to vulnerability. He says they rarely ever coordinate with the police until the day of the event. 

Another risk of using social media is attracting counter-protesters. 

Jones recounts an incident on Sept. 27 at the San Clemente Pier, when a counter-protester came up to an OC For Black Lives event and started yelling at attendees. Jones explains that their peacekeepers sat the man down and talked with him, then later the man admitted he had a gun on him.

On July 18 in Garden Grove, OC Justice Initiative experienced a counter-protestor drive their car into a crowd of 500 people. Crudup explains this has happened on several occasions, another being on Sept. 13 where the person drove into a crowd of 100 people.

Jones says these incidents worry them the most and is why most BLM accounts won’t post announcements of protests until the day of. This ensures a level of difficulty for the organization of counter-protestors. 

Hundreds of protestors kneeling in a park in honor of George Floyd.
Photo courtesy of OC For Black Lives

The big takeaway from this summer and what lies ahead

Communities that rarely spoke up before were now being met with promises from administrations. Irvine Unified School District has promised a resolution to hire educators for social justice who will help create an anti-racist curriculum that will educate and give space for discussion about the history of racism in America.

Jones emphasizes, however, that substantial change has not come yet. Their demands for removing school resource officers and increasing funding for schools over police budgets have been met with silence. 

But with a Biden administration, Crudup explains he is staying hopeful for real changes like police reform. 

The future for these organizations is still full of growing, protesting, demonstrating and educating. As Jones puts it: “Activism is a full-time job.”