Guam protesters: ‘We stand together’

by Jun 24, 2020Guam0 comments

Around 100 people held up signs at the Black Lives Matter gathering at the ITC intersection in Tamuning, Guam on Monday afternoon.

It started as a small crowd of about two dozen. In less than half an hour, the Guam protesters had swelled to nearly a hundred, drawing people to a peaceful gathering in solidarity with the protests in the US mainland sparked by the death of an African American man, George Floyd, 46, by the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Numerous drivers honked their vehicles in support of the movement as well.

Keilani Reyes, one of the organizers for the protest, wore a mask that read, “I can’t breathe”—the final words spoken by Floyd before he died.

“You don’t have to be black to care,” Reyes encouraged the public to join and “get up and stand up” for the lives of everyone across the nation.

“I was not expecting this to be this big, I thought it was just going to be a couple of people, I am overwhelmed of how much support that we are showing for the black community,” she said.

She is hoping to see an even larger group at the next protest to be held on Friday at 3:00 – 5:00 pm at the Chief Quipuha statue in Hagåtña.   

Christian Quichocho, visiting home in Guam from a college in New York, said he had witnessed first-hand the injustices of law enforcement toward his friends who are African Americans.

Quichocho showed up to the protest in support of his friends who faced discrimination from law enforcement in New York and Virginia. He held a sign that read, “You don’t have to be black to be outraged.”

“We’ve gone to parties … they would be singled out automatically on the street,” he said, “It just felt so unjust, and I felt so far away from them and what they’re going through right now.”

“It just feels great to see that people out here can feel their pain from so far away, and here we are,” he said. “The numbers I feel are just going to get stronger here, because Guam, we’re a very loving island, and we love all.”

Bianca Cloud caught wind of the flier an hour before the event had started, rushed over with her children to join the peaceful protest. Cloud held up a sign that read, “We got your back.”

“We want to make sure that we’re doing our part,” she said, “We legitimately want to see change. Change needs to happen now.”

Artemia Perez came with a group that held banana leaves inscribed with messages that read, “Justice” and “We stand together.”

“As people who are indigenous, we understand what it feels like to be oppressed, but we also understand, that we will never understand the problems that black people go through,” she said, “I feel like the best thing to do is just to get educated and try your best to get your family talking about issues like this, come out and show your support when you can.”

“It’s about understanding that black people in America have been oppressed for so many years, and it’s enough,” Annie Camacho said.

As people who live thousands of miles away, Camacho said, it doesn’t mean it’s not affecting us.

“It’s about the whole system that’s racially prejudiced, that’s killing black people, and we have to support what’s going on with all the efforts down there,” she said.

Another Black Lives Matter protest set for Friday.

Both half-black and half-CHamoru, Talaani Gilbert and Talysa Kakas connected on social media, angry at the injustice after the recent death of George Floyd. To raise awareness and help Guam’s voice join the national discussion, the duo plan to hold a peaceful protest Friday in Hagåtña.

Both outspoken and proud of their CHamoru heritage, they say it’s time to embrace their Black heritage as well and get the island involved in what many consider an uncomfortable topic. For two young women, speaking out against racism and lending Guam’s voice toward the global chorus to end racial injustice are worthy goals.

“We want to support those who are protesting all over the world,” said Kakas, “We all have to stand by each other.”

“The overall goal of this protest to show support … to show those back there that we see and know what they’re going through,” Gilbert said, “I think now it’s important because honestly, it’s getting out of hand. It’s been happening too much, and some people just choose to stay silent about it or turn a blind eye to what’s going on because it’s not happening here on the island.”

Kakas echoed Gilbert’s sentiments, adding, “people don’t think racism can happen on the island, but it’s still happening.”

Kakas cited many who have anti-Micronesian sentiments: “There’s racism towards Chuukese, Palauans, Filipinos… It’s important to voice your opinions to turn a blind eye means you’re giving permission and allowing it to happen.”

The two don’t claim to be the experts in racism, but they hope to start a discussion that leads to understanding, especially on the island they love.

The protest, scheduled for Friday afternoon from 3:00 – 5:00 pm at the Chief Quipuha loop in Hagatña, will observe strict social distancing guidelines.

“This is a peaceful protest,” Kakas said. “Bring your signs and bring a mask.”