A large group of black UC Berkeley students and their supporters are holding a rally on campus now, Thursday afternoon, in response to the recent Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury verdict regarding the fatal shooting by a police officer of Michael Brown.
They have occupied the Golden Bear Cafe at UC Berkeley since noon, with plans to be there for 4½ hours — the length of time they say Brown’s body remained in the street after he was killed. (The cafe is closed during the rally.) A speaker at 2:10 p.m. said police are not interfering with the activities.
Some attendees wore sweatshirts promoting the message “black power.” Others held signs saying “We can’t breathe,” in reference to the death in July of Eric Garner in New York City during his detention by police. This week, a Staten Island grand jury said it would not indict the officer who put Garner in the chokehold that led to his death.
A live-streaming video of the rally — organized by the UC Berkeley Black Student Union — is posted online, though it has been experiencing some technical difficulties. Scroll down below the video to learn how to follow live tweets from the event.
Former Black Panther leader 71-year-old activist Elaine Brown spoke a short time ago, urging attendees to push back against oppression and stand up for freedom and justice.
Other speakers have now taken the microphone, some reading poetry and others sharing their own emotional stories of discrimination and privilege.
Goals for the movement listed by attendees include the demilitarization of law enforcement agencies, nationally; a comprehensive review of systemic abuses by police; and the repurposing of military funds to support restorative justice. See the list.
Shortly after 3 p.m., one speaker led the crowd in a chant: “Indict, convict, send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
At about 3:20 p.m., the crowd clapped and sang civil rights movement anthem “Which side are you on?” together.
Organizers reminded the crowd to “respect the space” by listening carefully to each other and keeping the area clean during the event.
Update, 3:38 p.m. Roland Peterson of the Telegraph Business Improvement District sent out the following message about a protest planned in Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue this coming Saturday in connection with Ferguson and other recent events.
I want to bring to everyone’s attention that there is scheduled to be a protest rally and march this Saturday evening, December 6, starting at 5:00 PM. This is to protest recent events in Ferguson and elsewhere. They plan to gather at Telegraph and Bancroft, but subsequent plans for the protest at this time are unknown.
Police, Ambassadors, and the City’s Public Works Department are all fully aware of this event. We especially want merchants in that immediate area to be prepared. It is entirely likely some blocks in the area may be closed to traffic.
All of us in the City of Berkeley support free speech and the rights of individuals to express themselves in a peaceful manner. We, of course, sincerely hope the Saturday evening protest will be peaceful. However, if you see illegal or threatening behavior, please call 9-1-1 immediately.
Follow live tweets from the event here. This story is developing and this post was updated following publication to reflect new information.
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