For weeks, thousands of people have been filling the streets nationwide to protest against police brutality and racial injustice after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
And one person who was charged with standing at the frontlines to keep the peace was former Piti resident and Father Duenas High School graduate, First Lieutenant Christian Payumo, executive officer of the California National Guard.
Payumo is one of around 8,000 National Guard soldiers who were deployed throughout California to assist police after some instances of violence and property damage by people taking advantage of the civil unrest.
“Our main mission in LA was to just basically allow people to express their first amendment and protest peacefully. And just prevent the crime and the looting that was happening as much as possible,” Payumo said.
Upon hearing the news that he was going to be sent to respond to the protests, Payumo says his family was worried, recalling the 1992 Los Angeles riots after the death of Rodney King by L.A. police officers.
But he reassured them and said that most of his interactions with protestors were positive during his week-long deployment. Many of them, he says, were curious about the Guard’s presence and even asked him to pose for photos.
“It was pretty crazy! I was literally living in history. Just imagine tactical vehicles all over Hollywood – like Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard where all the stars are on the ground and stuff like that. And just a crapload of people protesting for what they feel is right. It was crazy to have all that meshed together,” he said.
Payumo is the nephew of the Pacific News Center’s sports director, Leo Payumo. Since he hasn’t been on Guam for a while, he wanted to send a message to his family and friends back home.
“I just want to give a shoutout to my parents. My dad – Colonel Michael Cruz, he’s in the Guam National Guard. And my dad Ruben Payumo, then my mom… she’s my world. She’s everything to me. And definitely, my brothers and Friars at FD because I wouldn’t be here if not for those four years at FD,” Payumo said.