Nightly peaceful protest grows at Cardiff Kook

A large crowd gathered at the "Cardiff Kook" statue in Encinitas on Tuesday to demonstrate for racial justice and reform.
A large crowd gathered at the “Cardiff Kook” statue in Encinitas on Tuesday evening to demonstrate for racial justice and reform. Speaking in black shirt is event co-organizer Mali Woods-Drake. Rep. Mike Levin is seen in a blue shirt standing to her right.
(Photo by Charlie Neuman)

On the fourth night of protests, about 400 people gathered at the statue and read the names of about 100 African Americans who had died in police custody


A North County landmark best known for whimsical self-expression, birthday wishes and holiday celebrations has taken on a more serious message this week with large nightly demonstrations against police abuse and racial injustice.

Tall black signs with names written in bold white letter surround the Magic Carpet Ride statue, more affectionately known by locals as the Cardiff Kook, on South Coast Highway at Chesterfield Drive in Encinitas. Also surrounding the statue are sunflowers and photos of African Americans who have died while in police custody in recent years.

“We’re here tonight to make sure black lives are being protected, not just from the police, but also from the systemic oppression that has been holding them down,” said Mali Woods-Drake, who organized the event with fellow Encinitas resident Felicia Rawlins.

People almost daily decorate the Kook in an outfit celebrating an occasion or holiday. This past week, he’s worn a mask that reads “I can’t breath”and a t-shirt that says “Ignoring politics is a privilege, Black Lives Matter.” Attached to his surfboard is a sign that reads “No excuse for abuse.”

Sophia Wheeler, 13, holds her message for passing traffic along S. Coast Highway 101 at the Cardiff Kook statue on Wednesday.
(Charlie Neuman/Photo by Charlie Neuman)

The display is in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Gatherings and speeches have been held at the statue at 7 p.m. since Saturday and are scheduled to continue through Friday. The Cardiff Kook has become a type of town square for free speech, and people throughout the week were seen holding signs that say “Black Lives Matter” or other slogans during the day or into the evening after the nightly gathering has dispersed.

On Tuesday, a large group of demonstrators walked to nearby Glen Park and laid on the grass for about nine minutes in remembrance of how long Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had knelt on Floyd’s neck. On Wednesday, the group at the statue had grown to about 400, and the evening ended with people paddling out on surfboards and laying sunflowers while forming a circle.

In the most solemn moment of Wednesday’s demonstration, people read the names of about 100 African Americans who had died in police custody. Many names were obscure while some, such as Eric Garner, were well known. Garner died in 2014 while in the choke hold of an arresting officer in Stanton Island, New York. Like Floyd, his last words were, “I can’t breathe.”

The most recent name had just been added to the board. David McAtee, who operated a barbecue stand in Louisville, Kentucky, was shot to death by police Monday night during an altercation that started when officers were breaking up a crowd violating the city’s curfew.

“There’s no more room here for any more lives,” Woods-Drake said. “We have to put an end to what is happening.”

Speakers on Wednesday included Solana Beach resident and attorney Dante Pride, who is representing the family of Leslie Furcron. The 59-year-old grandmother was hospitalized after being shot in the head with a beanbag round by a La Mesa police officer Saturday during a protest outside the city’s police station.

“I don’t think you all understand how much this means to a person like me,” Pride, who is African American, told the mostly white group of protesters.

Pride said he grew up in San Diego, and continues to deal with systemic racism while operating a successful law practice and raising a family.

“I can tell you that I get pulled over once a month, maybe twice a month,” he said. “It’s pretty ridiculous. I’ve never committed a crime. I’ve never done anything wrong. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I got arrested for DUI. I’ve never had a sip of alcohol.”

Pride said that while he believes he was arrested because he was black, he never says that because people will think he has a chip on his shoulder.

“I don’t say anything anymore, but I know it when I see it,” he said. “I know it when I feel it. The same way you feel the wind, I feel the racism. I see it in people’s eyes. I understand it.”

Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Diego, also attended and said he would return Friday.

Surfers paddle out after Cardiff Kook rally Wednesday.
Surfers, some carrying flowers head for the waves for the paddle out at Cardiff Reef surf spot after a Black Lives Matter rally at the Cardiff Kook statue.
(Photo by Charlie Neuman)

“The last week has been heartbreaking on so many levels,” he said. “The systemic injustice and racism that we’ve got in our society has been laid bare. And overwhelming, the peaceful protests across the United States have been distorted by those who have other motives. My great hope is that as a society we can come together and act with compassion, and we can be resilient.”

Joel and Julie Hansen of San Diego are white and brought their two adopted children who were originally from Ethiopia to the rally.

“It’s good for the kids to see people coming together and promoting change and progress,” Julie said.

Joel said it was good for his children to see that problems his children face are not just theirs alone, and he admitting to worrying about what they will face while growing up.

Their son Kyson, 13, said the event was a good way of connecting communities with one another.

“I think it’s very powerful to see this many people support us, to come out in their spare time,” he said. “It’s really powerful.”

Kyson said he lives in a predominatly white area, and he feels he can easily be singled out by people who may see him as threatening.

The demonstrated ended with Woods-Drake leading a chance of “No justice, no peace,” and “Black lives matter.”

“Now let’s go surf,” she said before heading off to change into her wetsuit.

-- Gary Warth is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune