Dear Mayor Arreguin,
I appreciate you communicating your concerns for the safety of Berkeley residents on Aug. 27. Your underscoring of Berkeley’s abhorrence of hateful rhetoric and your uplifting of our commitment to multiculturalism and diversity was appreciated.
However, I was concerned about your encouraging Berkeley residents to stay away from the Civic Center area on Aug. 27 when neo-Nazis and white supremacists plan to rally in Civic Center park. These people should not be allowed to demonstrate their hateful propaganda without counter-demonstrators standing up for justice. I am a person of faith and will be joining with others who will be there to affirm our commitment to building beloved community and to stand against hate. Would you have told the demonstrators that came from across the nation to march with Dr. Martin Luther King across the the bridge in Selma not to have marched because there could be trouble?
Dr. King talked about the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ Our very democracy is being threatened by the current administration and the emboldening of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. It is not wise to dismiss these groups as ‘a lunatic fringe’ that will go away if they are ignored. They are organized militias who want to establish a white nation and exclude Jews and People of Color and have been organizing for years including on UC Berkeley campus.
We cannot say, ‘It will never happen here’ unless we stand up against them and show the nation that there are many more people committed to building a diverse, multicultural, and anti-oppressive nation then those who wish to violently tear us apart.
Many groups will be present that day that will be committed to the kind of non-violence practiced by Martin Luther King: a resolute, strong, and righteous non-violence that does not back away when confronted with challenges.
I understand that there are groups in Berkeley that will come prepared to engage in violent confrontation. It’s the job of the mayor and the City Council to work with the police department to ensure that adequate contingency planning is being thoroughly considered to address Berkeley resident’s concerns for security and safety.
In my opinion (not speaking for any group I am affiliated with), the police need to have a line between peaceful demonstrators and all white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in the park that will not be breached. BPD’s job is to protect people standing for justice and to respond to every escalation of violence. Standing back and waiting till the situation escalates will not be an effective strategy as has been shown several times on the CAL campus. I strongly encourage BPD to protect peaceful demonstrators without militarized weaponry, camouflage, or SWAT teams.
I know this is a very difficult situation, but I hope and pray that the City Council, the police department and yourself are working on plans that allow Berkeley citizens to demonstrate our love for justice, our respect for free speech, and our unwillingness to let voices of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and misogyny go unchecked.
I look forward to a response to this letter. Thank you.