Activists march through shops, restaurants in ‘black brunch’ demonstration

Graph Massara /Staff

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Community members and UC Berkeley students marched in a peaceful protest Saturday morning, entering restaurants to read the names of black men killed by police and vigilantes.

The protest — termed a “black brunch” — began about 11 a.m. with a group of 30 people. Participants walked inside various restaurants and shops in the area around Fourth and Delaware streets, chanting and singing.

According to a press release from UC Berkeley’s Black Student Union, or BSU, which organized the demonstration, the protest targeted upscale businesses as places to “stop business as usual” and highlight violence against black people in the United States.

“The small inconvenience felt while we disrupted businesses pales in comparison to the nightmarish reality of being Black in America,” the press release said.

Last month, hundreds of protesters took to Berkeley and Oakland streets after multiple grand juries decided not to indict officers in the police killings of unarmed black men.

The demonstrators gathered in front of the Berkeley Amtrak station before marching into several businesses, including Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, the Apple Store and Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Once inside, speakers from the group read a list of names of black individuals killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes.

Several protesters then took the mic in the middle of a shopping center on Fourth and Delaware streets, including one UC Berkeley student, junior Blake Simons, who read a poem about his experiences with Berkeley police.

“I show my Cal Berkeley ID, and soon he lets me be free,” Simons said while reading his poem. “No ticket, no warning — it’s like he pulled me over just for fun.”

Ariel Hollie, a UC Berkeley junior and member of the BSU, said she wasn’t worried that student-led protests would ebb during and after the ongoing winter break, when many students leave the Bay Area.

“I know that black people are naturally soldiers,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re on break or in school. People who aren’t here physically are here spiritually — the momentum won’t be lost.”

She said the BSU is planning to continue its activism into the new year, including a renewed emphasis on diversity within the black community and efforts to change relevant policies in Berkeley.

G. Haley Massara is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @BylineGraph.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article quoted Ariel Hollie as saying “It doesn’t matter if they’re on break or in school.” In fact, she said, “It doesn’t matter if we’re on break or in school.”