‘We move forward in our fight’: Local unions march from Oakland to Berkeley in support of Black Lives Matter

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Redirecting police funding to community services and holding all police accountable were some of the demands made by Bay Area labor unions at a Black Lives Matter march Saturday from Oakland to Berkeley.

The protest was organized by Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, Local 1021 and other local unions and organizations, including American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, Alameda Labor Council, Ryse Youth Center and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

“Oakland’s membership of SEIU realized that the obligation of SEIU 1021, as well as other unions, is to make a massive contribution toward the elimination of systemic racism, beginning with police reform,” said Dwight McElroy, chief steward of SEIU Local 1021. “We are not only people of color; we are also people of consciousness, and people of consciousness can no longer stand by.”

McElroy said the protest was “beautiful” and estimated about 3,000 people participated in the march, adding that the length of the march took up five blocks, “storefront to storefront.”

Along with redirecting police funding, SEIU Local 1021’s demands also include demilitarizing the police force so that it is not in schools or dealing with people with psychological issues, as well as stopping the provision of raises to the police while making financial cuts to working-class people.

“We will keep applying pressure and taking steps to make sure real change is being made,” said SEIU Local 1021 President Joseph Bryant in a press release. “Today we move forward in our fight to bring resources back into our most vulnerable communities by defunding the racist systems that have caused most of the harm.”

McElroy said he hopes people continue to dedicate themselves to the “long haul of seeing this through” after protests end.

According to McElroy, youths are the ones who brought people back into the Black Lives Matter movement. He added that great leaders know when to listen and when to step forward.

“We know some of the true power points and mechanisms in this city, and I think it’s time for us to take the baton and run our portion,” McElroy said. “It’s a relay marathon. Everyone has a place.”

Maria Young is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maria_myoung.