Thousands of people flooded the streets, parks and intersections of Berkeley Saturday to call out against injustice, police killings of Black Americans, white supremacy and intolerance.
There were at least five separate demonstrations during the day. A group made protest signs and held them up in the Enterprise Rent-A-Car lot at Shattuck and Ashby avenues in an event hosted by the nearby Rogue Mark Studio. Thousands of people, young and old, who crowded the streets of South Berkeley before they set out on a New Orleans-inspired, music-filled funeral procession from Malcolm X Elementary School to Civic Center Park. This March to Bury Racism demonstration was by far the largest to have taken place in Berkeley to date. Observers estimated the crowd at 3,000-4,000.
Most people participating in the protests wore masks in keeping with COVID-19-related guidelines, although large crowds made social distancing challenging.
The ongoing Berkeley march to bury racism is in the spirit of the best New Orleans funerals. Marching bands and dancer Dada leading everyone on. Video by @Rosos2812 #BlackLivesMattters pic.twitter.com/LNx8KFvJCv
— Berkeleyside (@berkeleyside) June 6, 2020
At some points, the various Berkeley protests that took place on Saturday ran into each other and blended into one.
Hundreds came to a rally and sit-in that kicked off at 1 p.m. at Civic Center Park organized by a group of Berkeley High School students. After those who gathered listened to speeches and poems, they walked en masse across the street to hold a peaceful sit-in in front of the Berkeley police station. The group, which spread out all the way to Old City Hall, were silent for nine minutes to mark the amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Protesters then chanted “Say Their Name,” and yelled out the names of many Black people killed by police, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Kayla Moore, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown.
Berkeley High students were also behind one of the first Black Lives Matters demonstrations held in Berkeley, on May 28, during this unprecedented moment of nationwide uprisings for civil rights.
The UC Berkeley Black Student Union held a rally Saturday afternoon at Grove Park in South Berkeley, after which those that participated marched up to the Berkeley police station.
WE ARE CURRENTLY AT GROVE PARK. There is another protest occuring on MLK street but we are STILL AT GROVE PARK!!! pic.twitter.com/1whvjfImrG
— #blackatcal (@CalBSU) June 6, 2020
— Kayli Martinez (@kmart217) June 7, 2020
Matt brought his 9-year-old daughter, Christina, to the rally that started at Malcolm X Elementary School. She had never attended a rally before, although her older sister, now 14, had.
“We want to support justice, civil rights, human rights and people’s rights,” said Matt, who did not provide his last name.
Family-friendly rallies, including some organized specifically for children, seemed to characterize the Berkeley response to the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. On Friday afternoon, a Kids March for Black Lives protest saw dozens of very young children, accompanied by parents and guardians, hold a protest on the I-80 University Avenue pedestrian overpass. It prompted many people in cars driving under the bridge to honk their horns in solidarity.
More anti-racism protests are scheduled for Sunday and Monday in the city, including some orchestrated by school communities. See Berkeleyside’s “live” list (and let us know if you know of more that should be added).
Update, June 7: On Sunday, Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said police were around on Saturday but that he had decided not to place them “directly at the events, but rather to monitor from a distance.” The department had communicated with the organizers of most of the marches and expected to them to be peaceful. Berkeley police helped with crowd control and worked as safety escorts for the marchers, said Greenwood.
“We are sensitive to the intense feelings of people in our community regarding the police killings of people of color,” Greenwood said in an email. “We are sensitive to the issues around race, just policing and the racial disparities throughout institutions beyond law enforcement. We chose to not place our folks directly at the events, but rather to monitor from a distance. In the context of yesterday’s demonstrations, police presence can be perceived as chilling, as threatening, and in any case, place our people unnecessarily into a position of conflict. There was no reason to take that risk.”
“Yet, had there been a threat to the safety of our community members, we were fully prepared to act,” he continued. “We had open lines of communication with most organizers, the ability to watch from a distance, and contingency plans and personnel prepared to respond if needed.”