UC Berkeley, city of Berkeley groups respond to Black Lives Matter movement

BLM Protests
Josh Kahen/Staff

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Berkeley residents stood outside their houses about 9 p.m. Wednesday and shined flashlights at the sky for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in peaceful protest in response to the death of George Floyd.

The at-home protest, created by Councilmember Kate Harrison’s office, was intended to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black community in Berkeley. Other groups in Berkeley have found their own ways of showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, such as creating petitions and fundraising for protests.

“We need police reform now,” Harrison said. “We know that our department has less use of force than other departments, which I am very grateful for, but every department needs to look at itself and ask, ‘How can we do better?’ ”

Harrison said she also aims to raise awareness for Black-owned restaurants and businesses that have remained open in Berkeley during the pandemic.

Members of the UC Berkeley Law Students of African Descent, or LSAD, organization released an online petition Tuesday calling for UC Berkeley to “cut ties” with the Berkeley Police Department and decrease funding for UCPD. The petition has more than 50 pages of signatures, as of press time.

“That’s just the beginning of things,” said LSAD member Maya Harmon, who led the effort to create the petition. “The plan is to not stop until we actually see these changes being made, because at this point, we can’t really accept anything less.”

A statement from the Cal Black Student Union also encouraged campus administration to divest from UCPD.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, however, said UCPD is necessary for campus.

“UCPD is critical to our efforts to protect the campus community from crime on and around campus, respond to emergencies on the campus, and to ensure that student events and other activities occur safely,” Gilmore said in an email.

In a campuswide email, UCPD Chief Margo Bennett highlighted some of the efforts UCPD has made this year to better serve Black students, such as inviting community representatives to assist in hiring officers, establishing a community engagement program and hiring auditors to look at UCPD policies and procedures in regards to campus interactions.

The ASUC executive board said in a statement that it supports the Black Lives Matter movement and the efforts to hold UCPD accountable.

ASUC President Victoria Vera noted that she has co-sponsored resolutions to demilitarize UCPD in the past.

“Internally, there’s a lot of conversations about, you know, what kind of resolution can we write up in support of all these movements,” Vera said. “That’s something I would say keep an eye out.”

Contact Kelly Nguyen and Emma Rooholfada at [email protected].