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Massive march for change calls attention to racism in Midpeninsula

Saturday's demonstration draws thousands of protesters to Palo Alto, sparks demands for new police policies

Crowds poured onto the streets of Palo Alto on June 6 as they protest police brutality against blacks. Photo by Lloyd Lee/PaloAltoOnline.com.

In the second weekend since the death of George Floyd, thousands of protesters flocked to Palo Alto City Hall on Saturday afternoon, where local leaders, parents and youth grabbed onto the momentum of what's now a global movement of protests in order to call attention to harmful police policies and entrenched racial problems within the Midpeninsula.

"For those who say that Palo Alto is segregated because of the cost of living, know this: There are black and brown people who can afford to live here," said Diana Mazuera, 31, a Latina Palo Alto resident and Google employee, who spoke during the open mike session of the protest. "But black and brown people feel othered at work; black and brown people feel othered on the street; black and brown people don't want to feel othered at home — it's exhausting."

The protest, which was organized by four students — Ayinde Olukotun, Cleo Goodwin and Katarina and Yasmine Hamady — attracted elected and community leaders, including U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine, Menlo Park Mayor Cecilia Taylor, East Palo Alto Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones, author and activist Julie Lythcott-Haims and former judge LaDoris Cordell, among others.

Four students who organized the protest to support Black Lives Matter stand in King Plaza in Palo Alto on June 6. Photo by Lloyd Lee/PaloAltoOnline.com.

Speakers took the opportunity to call for major policy changes in policing. Eshoo said that on Monday, she'll be introducing to the House of Representatives sweeping reforms such as eliminating the use of military-grade equipment and chokeholds in the police force. Similarly, Wallace-Jones urged the support of "8 Can't Wait," a recent campaign aimed to decrease police violence through a set of eight new policies.

Several speakers including Cordell, a former Palo Alto City Council member, seized the moment to tell a crowd of mostly young protesters to vote President Donald Trump out of the White House.

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Rev. Kaloma Smith of the University AME Zion Church addressed more local issues such as lifting the restricted access to Foothills Park and instituting a policy in the Palo Alto Police Department that prevents the hiring of officers with disciplinary actions on their records, which were both addressed in a recent guest opinion for the Palo Alto Weekly.

(In his op-ed he urged the city to adopt the "8 Can't Wait" policies; the Palo Alto Police Department follows two of them: requiring a warning before shooting, and obligating officers to intervene if they see use of unreasonable force.)

'It's incumbent on people and communities like Palo Alto that have privilege and have the power to make change.'

-Ayinde Olukotun, protest organizer

Many of the youth members of the protest used this opportunity to voice experiences of racism within their own community.

Enola Talbert, 17, a student at Mountain View High School, recalled being in day care when she first "realized she was black."

"I was hanging out with one of my other black friends … and we wanted someone else to join us, so we asked this Caucasian kid," Talbert said in a speech. "He said, 'No, I cannot play with you because your skin is dirty.' I was floored. I did not know why he said that."

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Cleo Goodwin, 20, who is graduating from De Anza College, called for an end to the endless loop of hashtags, videos and "the R.I.Ps" that follow the senseless death of a black individual.

"This city, this country, is way too comfortable with black people being uncomfortable," Goodwin said.

During a 4-mile march, which began and ended at King Plaza in front of City Hall, people took their signs and their chants through downtown Palo Alto to El Camino Real, Oregon Expressway and through Old Palo Alto, where drivers, diners and residents were interrupted by shouts of "No Justice, No Peace;" "Black Lives Matter;" and "I can't breathe."

One Twitter user posted a video of Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry at the rally repeating the chant: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go."

In a sea of cardboard signs calling for change, some posters were directed at Palo Alto's history and presence of racist practices.

Olga Muys, 15, held a sign that read "No Justice, no peace" in the front and "Palo Alto was built on redlining" on the back.

"In English class, this year, we learned about the history of redlining and the effect that it had on the creation of the Palo Alto and East Palo Alto we live in today," said Muys, a Palo Alto High School student. "I wanted to bring attention to it because I think a lot of people forgot how we got here."

Protesters hold signs during a march in Palo Alto on June 6. Photo by Lloyd Lee/PaloAltoOnline.com.

Other signs called out the Palo Alto Police Department, stating that the department had not banned chokeholds and that its arrest records revealed "more racial bias than 81% of CA depts," according to policescorecard.org

In an interview, Cordell said Palo Alto was the perfect city in which to hold a protest because, among other reasons, its police department has no ban on chokeholds and decisions such as the recent citywide curfew are driven by "racial fear."

"Right there, there are people who were well-intentioned, who are asymptomatic when it comes to racism," Cordell said. "That's why this is a perfect city in which to have this protest — at King Plaza, at Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Plaza."

For many black residents of Palo Alto, seeing crowds of protesters recognizing that black lives matter inspired a new feeling of visibility and acceptance within their own community.

"I really wanted to see whether the people of this primarily white community would come out and stand with us," said Michel-Ange Siaba, 21, a Paly graduate and Palo Alto resident of about 10 years. "This is the first time where I felt like this community, as a whole, stands with me and accepts me."

Protest organizer Ayinde Olukotun, a graduate of Menlo School, addresses the crowd at King Plaza in Palo Alto on June 6. Photo by Lloyd Lee/PaloAltoOnline.com.

Olukotun, a recent Menlo School graduate and organizer of a protest on June 1 as well, said the demonstrations were not only a way to address racism within local communities but also a call-to-action for cities such as Palo Alto.

"It's not just a problem of underprivileged communities, of communities with a large population of people of color, of communities that have police brutality or over-policing — this is everyone's problem," Olukotun, 18, said. "And fixing it is not incumbent on those communities, it's incumbent on people and communities like Palo Alto that have privilege and have the power to make change."

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Massive march for change calls attention to racism in Midpeninsula

Saturday's demonstration draws thousands of protesters to Palo Alto, sparks demands for new police policies

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Jun 8, 2020, 2:36 pm

In the second weekend since the death of George Floyd, thousands of protesters flocked to Palo Alto City Hall on Saturday afternoon, where local leaders, parents and youth grabbed onto the momentum of what's now a global movement of protests in order to call attention to harmful police policies and entrenched racial problems within the Midpeninsula.

"For those who say that Palo Alto is segregated because of the cost of living, know this: There are black and brown people who can afford to live here," said Diana Mazuera, 31, a Latina Palo Alto resident and Google employee, who spoke during the open mike session of the protest. "But black and brown people feel othered at work; black and brown people feel othered on the street; black and brown people don't want to feel othered at home — it's exhausting."

The protest, which was organized by four students — Ayinde Olukotun, Cleo Goodwin and Katarina and Yasmine Hamady — attracted elected and community leaders, including U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine, Menlo Park Mayor Cecilia Taylor, East Palo Alto Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones, author and activist Julie Lythcott-Haims and former judge LaDoris Cordell, among others.

Speakers took the opportunity to call for major policy changes in policing. Eshoo said that on Monday, she'll be introducing to the House of Representatives sweeping reforms such as eliminating the use of military-grade equipment and chokeholds in the police force. Similarly, Wallace-Jones urged the support of "8 Can't Wait," a recent campaign aimed to decrease police violence through a set of eight new policies.

Several speakers including Cordell, a former Palo Alto City Council member, seized the moment to tell a crowd of mostly young protesters to vote President Donald Trump out of the White House.

Rev. Kaloma Smith of the University AME Zion Church addressed more local issues such as lifting the restricted access to Foothills Park and instituting a policy in the Palo Alto Police Department that prevents the hiring of officers with disciplinary actions on their records, which were both addressed in a recent guest opinion for the Palo Alto Weekly.

(In his op-ed he urged the city to adopt the "8 Can't Wait" policies; the Palo Alto Police Department follows two of them: requiring a warning before shooting, and obligating officers to intervene if they see use of unreasonable force.)

Many of the youth members of the protest used this opportunity to voice experiences of racism within their own community.

Enola Talbert, 17, a student at Mountain View High School, recalled being in day care when she first "realized she was black."

"I was hanging out with one of my other black friends … and we wanted someone else to join us, so we asked this Caucasian kid," Talbert said in a speech. "He said, 'No, I cannot play with you because your skin is dirty.' I was floored. I did not know why he said that."

Cleo Goodwin, 20, who is graduating from De Anza College, called for an end to the endless loop of hashtags, videos and "the R.I.Ps" that follow the senseless death of a black individual.

"This city, this country, is way too comfortable with black people being uncomfortable," Goodwin said.

During a 4-mile march, which began and ended at King Plaza in front of City Hall, people took their signs and their chants through downtown Palo Alto to El Camino Real, Oregon Expressway and through Old Palo Alto, where drivers, diners and residents were interrupted by shouts of "No Justice, No Peace;" "Black Lives Matter;" and "I can't breathe."

One Twitter user posted a video of Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry at the rally repeating the chant: "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go."

In a sea of cardboard signs calling for change, some posters were directed at Palo Alto's history and presence of racist practices.

Olga Muys, 15, held a sign that read "No Justice, no peace" in the front and "Palo Alto was built on redlining" on the back.

"In English class, this year, we learned about the history of redlining and the effect that it had on the creation of the Palo Alto and East Palo Alto we live in today," said Muys, a Palo Alto High School student. "I wanted to bring attention to it because I think a lot of people forgot how we got here."

Other signs called out the Palo Alto Police Department, stating that the department had not banned chokeholds and that its arrest records revealed "more racial bias than 81% of CA depts," according to policescorecard.org

In an interview, Cordell said Palo Alto was the perfect city in which to hold a protest because, among other reasons, its police department has no ban on chokeholds and decisions such as the recent citywide curfew are driven by "racial fear."

"Right there, there are people who were well-intentioned, who are asymptomatic when it comes to racism," Cordell said. "That's why this is a perfect city in which to have this protest — at King Plaza, at Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Plaza."

For many black residents of Palo Alto, seeing crowds of protesters recognizing that black lives matter inspired a new feeling of visibility and acceptance within their own community.

"I really wanted to see whether the people of this primarily white community would come out and stand with us," said Michel-Ange Siaba, 21, a Paly graduate and Palo Alto resident of about 10 years. "This is the first time where I felt like this community, as a whole, stands with me and accepts me."

Olukotun, a recent Menlo School graduate and organizer of a protest on June 1 as well, said the demonstrations were not only a way to address racism within local communities but also a call-to-action for cities such as Palo Alto.

"It's not just a problem of underprivileged communities, of communities with a large population of people of color, of communities that have police brutality or over-policing — this is everyone's problem," Olukotun, 18, said. "And fixing it is not incumbent on those communities, it's incumbent on people and communities like Palo Alto that have privilege and have the power to make change."

Comments

Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2020 at 4:53 pm
Gary , Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2020 at 4:53 pm

Good to see protesters now have some proposals - at least as to some police practices. On my phone, the link to "8 cant wait" is not getting me to specific proposals. But I'll throw in 2 cents worth anyway to kick off the discussion. Most cities around here have police policies and procedures online. Whether changing a policy or procedure might matter would depend on many things including the consequences, if any, of breaches. As to the use of deadly force by an officer, for example, the basic law is that officers may use any force apparently necessary to get the job done. That job might be making an arrest - even for a minor offense. Some departments place restrictions on methods. For example, suppose a drunk driver flees in his Tesla at 120 mph. Some departments tell officers not to pursue at 120 mph. But if the drunk driver has an abducted child in the car, there could be a Plan B. How about always saying "drop the gun or I'll shoot." You see it on police tv dramas. Saying that to a suspect pointing his gun at an officer or at a hostage may get them killed. How about telling a terrorist, "drop your submachine gun or I'll shoot." That could kill a dozen officers. How about a choke hold? A dangerous compliance technique. But you would not want to policy or law that says officers can never use choke holds. That would include a struggle with a suspect for a gun. The suspect could choke the officer but not vice-a-versa. I am just suggesting proposed changes be carefully considered and written.


LongResident
another community
on Jun 8, 2020 at 5:12 pm
LongResident, another community
on Jun 8, 2020 at 5:12 pm

The issue of police violence is a real one. However, it's
important to note that only 1.4% of gun deaths are by the police.
98.6% of killing by gun are done by other people. And who do
we expect to deal with most of those other killings? Who
cleans up the mess? I think police violence is more significant
in general in other ways than it is by shootings by police.
So reducing shootings by police should not be the metric, as it may
in fact increase the source of the other 98% of shootings.
Crooks aren't in general shooting at police, they are mostly shooting
other people. Not a good thing to see increase.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2020 at 6:46 pm
Gary , Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2020 at 6:46 pm

For those who want to consider changing the law in California on the use of force by police officers, start by reading CA Penal Code section 835(a) which was just amended effective January 1, 2020. By way of background, two important US. Supreme Court decisions on the Fourth Amendment "reasonable" limitation on the use of force in trying to detain or arrest or hold (seize) a person everywhere in the country are: Graham v. Connor (1989) 490 U.S. 386, and Tenn. v. Garner (1985) 471 U.S. 1.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2020 at 8:10 pm
Gary , Sylvan Park
on Jun 8, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Continuing the discussion with myself, you may have seen today that Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was advocating for the elimination of "qualified immunity" for police officers. So a little about that. One possible remedy for the violation by police of someone's rights is a federal lawsuit for "damages" (compensation for the harm). There is a federal statute that authorizes such a lawsuit codified in Volume 42 of the United States Code, section 1983 (sometimes called a "1983 case"). It authorizes lawsuits against local officials - but not states or federal agencies. Lawsuits may be filed against the public employees involved and against the employer alleging violation of a right or rights and harm. The employer will only be liable if what the employee(s) did was pursuant to a policy or practice of the agency. Each employee named could be personally liable but, get ready, not unless the law establishing the unlawfulness of the employee's conduct had previously been "clearly established" in the law. It was and remains a limitation on personal liability of, for example, a police officer in a case alleging an unlawful arrest or use of excessive force. Courts inferred such a limitation on personal liability from statutes giving employees duties to carry out. Why should they be personally liable for carrying out a duty? In California, state law goes a step further in protecting public employees from personal liability for acts within the scope of their public employment. The state or local government will pay off such a money judgment (following all appeals taken, of course). The prospect of a lawsuit for harm done, though, is only one way to deter or respond to official misconduct. Another is to fire or discipline. Another is prosecution for commission of a crime. But crimes are usually not written (defined) with police in mind. Police are empowered to do things in carrying out their jobs that for a non-officer would be a crime. Enough for now.


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