Hundreds of surfers staged a “paddle out” in memory of George Floyd at Rockaway Beach on Saturday, June 6 — and another one is scheduled for later this month.
Lou Harris, the founder of the East Coast Chapter of the Black Surfing Association, said about 450 surfers took to the water to chant the name of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man who was killed by a white police officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. The four police officers at the scene have been arrested and are facing charges.
They also sang “Happy Birthday” for Breonna Taylor, who would have been 27 on June 5. The Louisville nurse was killed by police officers in her own home two months ago, for what they said was an attempted drug sting, according to CNN. No arrests or charges have been made yet.
While out in the ocean, the surfers gathered into a circle and threw flowers toward the middle in honor of the countless innocent victims of police brutality.
“It felt like a rock concert,” Harris said. “We’ve done paddle outs before, but this was huge.”
Harris said that prior to the paddle out, he and several friends spoke about the challenges they face as Black people, such as needing to carry identification just in case anything happens.
“I just wanted to bring to light what happened,” Harris said. “We’re just letting people know what it’s like to be a Black man in the United States.”
Harris added that the NYPD supported them by providing a boat while they were in the ocean in case anyone needed assistance as there are no lifeguards working, which he felt he needed to clarify given messages he was receiving from people who were concerned to see the police boat in some of the photos.
Harris said the demonstration became a “solidarity surf,” as surfers and individuals who participated were of all race and ethnicities.
“Injustice can really bring people together,” he said.
The Black Surfing Association — which Harris founded in 2016 to give free surf lessons for all children and teach water safety at schools in the area — announced they will have another paddle out, this time for “police injustice,” on Saturday, June 20, at 9 a.m., on Beach 109th Street.
“It’s important to have this paddle out to keep the momentum going, with what’s going on in the world, such as police brutality against Black men and injustice,” Harrison said.