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Caravan For Justice: Cars Offer Socially Distanced Protesting During Pandemic

Photo caption:

Photo by Chloe Jackman Photography

Protesters hold up signs during a caravan protest for justice in San Francisco on Thursday.

Hundreds and hundreds of cars wound through the streets of San Francisco. Drivers honked. Children chanted. Signs read "Black Lives Matter "and "No Justice, No Peace" as for hours protesters — socially distanced inside their own vehicles — added their voices to a national chorus of outrage.

Caravan protests like the one on Thursday afternoon, and an earlier demonstration in Oakland, have taken on new significance with a deadly pandemic and widespread street protests are happening simultaneously.

"We're sick and tired of seeing our black brothers and sisters being killed in the streets and it being OK," says Elena Fong. "It's being broadcast across the nation and no one's doing anything about it."

Fong has two children, including a 3-year-old daughter with Down syndrome who is immunocompromised. A caravan protest felt safer than a march, given the risks of the coronavirus.

Fran Culp says that, as someone with major medical issues, she was "thrilled" to have the option to join a protest with her husband and her dog.

Surya Kishi Grover was fine going to protests herself — she had taken her 6-year-old son to an outdoor demonstration already. But her 2 1/2-year-old and 18-month-old were another story. The caravan offered a way to protest as an entire family, with Grover, her husband and all three kids in the minivan. They made a sign that read "Asians for Black Lives" and practiced chanting.

Erin Feher planned this protest as a safe option for people like Fong, Grover and Culp, who didn't want to gather in crowds during this pandemic — but also to bring the energy and passion of the ongoing protests into more parts of San Francisco.

Her family has attended anti-police brutality protests downtown, and coming back to Outer Richmond, the quiet residential neighborhood where they live, was jarring.

"To be so close yet live this very peaceful kind of unbothered existence was bothering me," she says.

Feher had never organized a protest before. She was scrolling Instagram this past weekend when she saw a post about a Zoom call offering ideas on how to turn outrage into action. On that call she learned about caravan protests, and picked up tips for how to organize.

"One of the things they said that always sticks out to me was, 'You know, even if five people come, even if 10 people come, you did a good job.' " she says. "And I was like, 'OK, I can do that.' "

It wasn't five or 10 people. According to Chloe Jackman, a photographer who witnessed the caravan, it took nearly 3 hours for all the vehicles to pass her studio; she estimates well over 1,000 vehicles participated.

Similar protests have been held in cities across America, from the large caravan in Oakland to ones planned in Wisconsin, Connecticut and the suburbs of Detroit on Sunday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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