Protesters staged Black Lives Matter demonstrations across Berkeley on Monday, including “Stand Out for Black Lives” — a gathering at Berkeley Arts Magnet elementary school, or BAM.
Berkeley residents also participated in a candlelight vigil Sunday for George Floyd at the Downtown Berkeley BART station. About 200 people attended the vigil, which was organized by Berkeley resident Barry Cowan and lasted from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Cowan said he hadn’t yet seen any events in Berkeley addressing recent incidents, so he decided to plan the vigil last week.
“I wanted to do something and make it, as a candlelight vigil, emphasizing love and compassion and empathy,” Cowan said. “It really did warm my heart to see the number of people who responded.”
He noted that after the event, attendees told him the vigil was moving for them. Cowan added that he is considering holding the event on a more regular basis based on a suggestion from his neighbor.
On Monday, protesters began arriving at BAM around 4:30 p.m. and made signs before marching up to the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Virginia Street for increased “community visibility.”
About 200 protesters stood on all four corners of the intersection, chanting phrases such as “These racist cops have got to go,” “Money for schools, not cops” and “We are the children, the mighty, mighty children.”
BAM parents Liz Jackson and Mara Greenaway organized the protest.
“As diverse as Berkeley thinks it is, it’s not,” Greenaway alleged. “I notice how the Black children at this school are treated differently. … Now is the chance to do something about it.”
Jackson said she began planning the protest a couple days ago and that she was happy with the turnout. She added that in the past, it has been harder to attract attendees for other events.
The majority of the protesters were from the BAM community, including many students. Cameron Ivery, an 8-year-old, attended the protest with his family.
“I’m here to raise awareness,” Ivery said.
Emmett Scott, also 8, said he donated his birthday money to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, which has a legal defense fund for Black Lives Matter protesters.
Rashay Lankford, another BAM parent, said she decided to attend the gathering for multiple reasons.
“It was important for me to show up because if we’re asking non-Black community members to stand in solidarity with us, then as a Black parent, I have a responsibility to be here with them,” Lankford said.
Lankford’s 6-year-old son had also asked her to go.
Lankford added that she thinks racism needs to be addressed in Berkeley’s public school communities. Despite the “uncomfortable” nature of the topic, Lankford said she believes that having public conversations about racial disparities in K-5 education is an important first step in bringing awareness to the issue.
At 5:30 p.m., protesters marched back to BAM, where Jackson gave closing remarks and invited other protesters to speak.
Milani Pelley, a spoken word poet, shared a poem addressing white people, saying, “Fight the monster that feeds your comfort.” Pastor Michael Wallace, another speaker, said to the crowd, “I can feel the hurricane winds of change right now.”
Sebastian Cahill and Maria Young contributed to this report.
Contact Naomi Birenbaum and Mattias Hoz at [email protected].