Coronavirus: Many protesters say the choice is clear when weighing risks of joining large demonstrations

Mental health experts have a message they want us all to hear.
As thousands of people peacefully gather, many are doing so at risk to their own health.

What drives them to raise them to join the protests?

Mental health experts have a message they want us all to hear.

After months of struggling to stay safe from COVID-19, Evangelina Romero says the risk she incurs by protesting she feels is less than the risk of staying silent.

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"This is important because in 20 years, I don't want my children to be fighting for this," she said, "In 20 years there won't be a pandemic. But this will still live on in our generation and this will define us."

Dr. Steven Siegel, a professor psychiatry at USC, said the pandemic opened the wounds of racial injustice with the disproportionate deaths of African Americans. "The message behind this is more important to me than my own physical health," he said.

Then the death of George Floyd ignited a nation. "It may have been the match, that lit the bomb, but that bomb was ready to go," Seigel said.

One protester in Brea said: "I have a heart condition, I was afraid to come out because of COVID, but I rather come out and fight for our brothers lives than stay in the house. Enough is enough. We need to fight for our lives."

"People are frustrated and angry and understandably so," Siegel said. "We need to address the impact of bigotry and racism and religious intolerance."

Siegel said reports revealing high depression rates show people have been hurting for a long time. He adds the lack of uniform access to mental health services is another inequity that needs to be addressed because people who don't feel cared for, don't have a path back to mental wellness. "Your ability to feel good to feel safe to feel supported, it matters," he said.

Another protester told ABC7: "I'm in it for the long run. I'm going go to every single protest that I can until there's change to be made."
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