Protest to defund police department and denounce systemic racism carries through downtown El Paso


Michael Cuviello

Katie Titan address protest crowd in San Jacinto Plaza during Defund the Police rally in downtown El Paso June 2010.

Paulina Astrid Spencer, Entertainment Editor

El Pasoans held a third peaceful protest Wednesday, June 10 in the aftermath of George Floyd, whose death under police custody in Minneapolis has ignited a series of protests around the world denouncing police brutality. 

Wednesday’s protest in downtown El Paso garnered hundreds of supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement alongside supporters of the El Paso Police Department (EPPD). 

Meeting at Cleveland Square Park, protesters began marching through the streets of downtown chanting in unison for the defunding of the police department and justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others who have died at the hands of police. 

Unlike May 31 and June 3’s protests, police officers patrolled the downtown streets without riot gear and blocked off traffic to all cars. 

Many protesters expressed outrage and recounted being tear-gassed by the EPPD during the May 31 protest, despite being compliant with police orders. 

“During our first protest we were peacefully protesting as is our first-amendment-right and they asked us to move to the grass and we were following their orders. They decided to push us and shove while we were moving,” Sierra Rhodes, 21, said. “Then they proceeded to tear gas and rubber-bullet everyone even though we had listened to them.” 

“No justice, no peace” was one the many chants heard during the demonstration, alongside posters held by protesters denouncing the police and asking for its immediate defunding. 

“We think that money, or at least a portion of it, would be better served invested into our communities, education, housing, poverty and things like that, rather than on law enforcement,” said Vianey Perez, 20.  

The march eventually led to San Jacinto Plaza, where the crowd stopped and kneeled, to honor, members of the black community who have been killed by police officers.  “Present,” the crowd said simultaneously in Spanish, as the names of victims were called out by organizers. 

Katie Titan, 26proceeded tspeak to the crowd at San Jacinto Plaza using a megaphone. 

“I look at all of you and I see such great people,” Titan said. “I see people putting their lives on the line because we never know how people are going to react when we decide to speak our truth. I don’t understand how it is that every right-wing pundit is allowed to say every word under the sun, but if I speak up, I am silenced. I am stepped on for eight minutes and 46 seconds.” 

Titan was referring to the length of time Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd’s neck resulting in his death, in a now viral video depicting the events. 

Later, the crowd was sent home by organizers, yet many made their way back to Cleveland Square Park where they faced a group of counter-protesters.  

Despite the tension, everything remained calm between the two groups, with protesters of “El Paso for Black Lives” lining up once again to protest.  

Several El Paso protests are set to occur in the following weeks and across the country, as people march for justice against police brutality and systemic racism.  

Paulina Astrid Spencer may be reached at [email protected]