Religious leaders, UC Berkeley students and community members gathered Sunday afternoon to march, sing and participate in a symbolic “die-in” in remembrance of the police-related killings of unarmed black men.
Attendees held signs, sang, chanted and marched from the courtyard of the First Congregational Church of Berkeley on Channing Way until they reached The Way Christian Center on University Avenue. The crowd then held a four-and-a-half-minute-long silent vigil in honor of Michael Brown, whose body lay in the open for four and a half hours after he was shot, before lying down on University Avenue in a ‘“die-in.”
Police were present, but the event remained peaceful.
“It’s important to speak up and say that people will not tolerate the racist violence,” said Berkeley resident Karen Paull, 63. “I don’t think that because I’m white I should ignore it.”
The multifaith event drew about 200 people, including followers of about 20 traditions. Several Berkeley and Oakland-area residents and groups, including UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union, spoke to the crowd during the “die-in.”
“(We) protest to create a moral confrontation,” said Brittney Enin, a member of the BSU and a UC Berkeley sophomore. “If people can’t face it, we’ll make them face it.”
Ben McBride, one of the associate pastors at The Way Christian Center who attended the event, advocated the implementation of police body cameras, increased spending on violence reduction programs and better tracking of violent police incidents. He said the purpose of raising awareness was to push forward with those policies.
“If there’s any place where people’s faith should have some kind of power, it should be where people have been marginalized and oppressed,” he said.