An estimated 100-200 people took part in a rally and march that began on the UC Berkeley campus Wednesday, held to demonstrate solidarity with black students at universities across the country, including at the University of Missouri.
Chanting refrains including “Oh people don’t give up,” “Victory will be ours one day,” and “Ain’t no power like the power of the people ‘cos the power of the people won’t stop,” the demonstrators, many of whom wore black, gathered in front of the Campanile on the Cal campus, then marched through downtown Berkeley and ended the protest in Civic Center Park, in front of Berkeley City Hall.
The demonstration was organized by the UC Berkeley Black Student Union (BSU), and mirrored similar ‘Student Blackout’ walkouts at Yale, UCLA, Emerson College, Occidental College and a host of other universities across the nation in recent days.
The demonstrations came in the wake of events at the University of Missouri where black students protested what they said was the constant racial tension on campus. The uprising culminated in the resignations of both the university president and its chancellor after a graduate student starved himself for a week, and the football team went on strike.
The UC Berkeley rally comprised students, faculty and people from the community who came out to support the cause.
The rally began with a speech from Gabriel Regalado, a student at Cal and one of the many vocal leaders for the Black Student Union.
“There is a war going on,” Regalado said. “This war that we are fighting is against white supremacy, and not just white supremacy on the streets, but white supremacy at this institution. We want our students to feel safe. What the students at the University of Missouri did is truly an example of black excellence.”
Lauren Butler, also a member of BSU, told Berkeleyside how the lack of diversity on campus and absence of respect for black culture can make it hard for black students to succeed at the university.
“I don’t think people really understand the effects that this can have on one’s psyche,” she said. “Trying to deal with a curriculum as sophisticated as UC Berkeley in an environment that isn’t given me the tools to succeed, we’re fighting an uphill battle.”
Currently, black students make up 2.8% of the undergraduate student body at Cal. Over the years, the black student body has expressed its frustration with the lack of diversity on campus not only within the student body, but among the faculty as well.
The rally lasted a little over two hours on the Cal campus before the protesters made their way to downtown Berkeley. People of all colors and ethnicities flooded the streets, and, at one point, formed a human barricade at the intersection of Shattuck and Center streets temporarily bringing the flow of traffic to a halt.
Berkeley Police issued several Nixle alerts to say they were monitoring the group. BPD estimated the crowd to be 100-200 strong. The demonstrators dispersed at around 4 p.m.
The UC Berkeley-organized protest comes two weeks after upwards of 700 Berkeley High students staged a walkout that ended on the Cal campus, to protest the district’s response to a threatening, racist message left on a school computer.
Berkeley High students walk out, rally after racist threats (11.05.15)
Follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and on Facebook where we often break news. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like the latest Berkeley news sent to your email inbox once a day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.