Hundreds of Berkeley community members participated in three Black Lives Matter protests over the past week, including a roadside vigil for victims of police brutality and a socially distanced “honk and wave” event to display solidarity.
In the wake of Juneteenth, Saturday’s Defend Black Lives event along the Ohlone Greenway was conceived as a chance to mourn Black lives lost to police violence and evolved spontaneously into a call for action as participants “expressed their hearts,” according to organizer Mary Ann Furda.
Furda added that a community shrine appeared at the intersection in the weeks preceding the event, with an alter, flowers, posters and black-and-white photos memorializing George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and dozens of others.
“I heard, and agree, with the desire stated at the event to substantively alter the role of police in our community, and across the nation,” Furda said in an email.
Her event was accompanied by a series of emails informing attendees about ways to demand change, which included a list of City Council contacts and an urge to reach out to the mayor.
One action item was the George Floyd Community Safety Act recently passed by Councilmember Ben Bartlett, which would shift funding for crisis response, mental health and traffic control from the Berkeley Police Department to community crisis workers if implemented into the budget.
A march at the BPD headquarters, planned by Berkeley High School student Hadassah Zenor-Davis, was also held Saturday with a turnout of a couple hundred people. Attendees brought signs proclaiming, “Say their names,” “No justice no peace” and “F— the police,” and at one point, engaged in a tense standoff with a row of uniformed officers, according to Zenor-Davis. Zenor-Davis also helped spearhead a thousands-strong march June 9 for Black youth.
Zenor-Davis, who is planning another protest regarding racism to be held at Berkeley’s Indian Rock Park, said she doesn’t see herself as an activist. Rather, she said she believes change is coming and is “just doing what (she feels) everybody else should be doing too.”
On June 17, another protest was held at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street, with an attendance of about 25 people, including families and children.
“It was a very friendly, calm protest,” said organizer Rebecca Espinoza in an email. “That is what I had hoped for.”
The “honk and wave” protest found support in the form of cars driving by, some circling around the area just to come back and honk again, Espinoza added.
All three organizers stressed the importance of creating change through public solidarity.
“The pandemic has forced us to physically distance – this has crystallized the appreciation that we are social animals who require social intimacy, solidarity,” Furda said in the email. “Ultimately, it’s about the potential to create community, and/or strengthen it.”