More than 150 people from around the Bay Area gathered Friday evening in Menlo Park in a protest that called for justice in the police killing of Breonna Taylor and pushed for reform in the Menlo Park Police Department.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black medical worker, was killed in her apartment by police in Louisville, Kentucky while they executed a search warrant in March. On Wednesday, Sept. 23, a grand jury's decision was announced: Of three officers who fired shots, only one, who had been dismissed from the force, was indicted for "wanton endangerment," or recklessly firing his gun. None were charged for causing Taylor's death, according to the New York Times.
In response, protests have flared up around the U.S.
In Menlo Park, Friday's protest organized to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, according to event flyers, was organized by East Palo Alto-based art and activism collective Tha Hood Squad and Mountain View and Los Altos-based anti-racism organization Justice Vanguard.
The rally began around 6 p.m., when attendees gathered in the plaza in front of Kepler's Books and Cafe Borrone before marching to the Menlo Park Civic Center, where they stood and chanted at various locations around the Police Department headquarters before returning to the plaza.
During their march, they stopped twice in the middle of the intersection of El Camino Real and Ravenswood and Menlo avenues for an extended period of time. Vehicles formed a line along El Camino Real, and some honked in annoyance.
Seth Donnelly, who teaches at Los Altos High School and has been involved with the Justice Vanguard and Tha Hood Squad, said that their protest was held in Menlo Park in an effort to establish a "culture of resistance" throughout the Peninsula, and to call specific attention to the Menlo Park Police Department and its policing practices with Black and Latinx people.
While the group's action to stop traffic at a critical intersection was somewhat spontaneous, he added, "Society itself needs to understand that it's not business as usual as long as business as usual is the murder of Black people and business as usual is the perpetuation of white supremacy. … We need to understand that society itself needs to be interrupted in its normal function."
Protesters carried signs bearing statements such as "Silence is violence," "No more Black death" and "No Justice No Peace" and shouted chants like "Same story every time / Being Black is not a crime."
"It's a shame that this is happening over and over again," said protest organizer JT Faraji, a longtime critic of Menlo Park police and founder of Tha Hood Squad. "We have to do something about it."
He spoke about policing practices in Menlo Park, including the city's acceptance of funds from Facebook to pay for police services.
"It's only a matter of time before we have our own Breonna Taylor. It's only a matter of time before we have our own George Floyd," he said. "We can no longer assume, hope and pray the system will fix itself."
At the midpoint of the protests, attendees gathered at the rear of the Menlo Park police station and shouted "Quit your job," and "No good cops in a racist system."
A number of protesters this news organization spoke with said they came from communities outside Menlo Park to participate.
Desiree Sakal, a Hayward resident, said she was not surprised by the grand jury verdict in the Breonna Taylor case. Accompanying her was Chelsey Monroe from San Francisco, who added that she was there because, as a Black woman, she felt so much grief at the decision and felt the only way to release that sadness was to participate with others in the protest.
Sequoia High School student and Redwood City resident Ray Evans said he was concerned about the idea that corporate-funded police departments could expand beyond Facebook's financial support of the city of Menlo Park to other communities. Oracle could start to fund the Redwood City Police Department, or Google could do the same in Mountain View, he posited.
Artist Edi Hsu, who has been documenting Black Lives Matter protests around the Bay Area through live-action watercolors, participated in the protest while drawing and painting with a small journal and watercolor kit.
Elijah Ezeji-Okoye made the trip from Watsonville to participate in the protest. He said that he was disappointed in the outcome of the Breonna Taylor grand jury verdict and the limited responses by police departments to the demands of the Black Lives Matter protests. He said he'd favor defunding police departments and investing in community response efforts, as well as listening to people in marginalized and lower-income communities to hear about their needs.
Around 8 p.m., as participants disbanded from the plaza in front of Kepler's and Cafe Borrone in the darkening evening, Faraji told attendees to plan to return at a later date.