A small but mighty gathering of protesters descended upon the steps of Santa Clara City Hall on June 5 for a Black Lives Matter Solidarity Protest.
The demonstration, facilitated by Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) allies, brought together approximately 200 supporters, many from the Islamic community, to honor “the Black lives lost to police terror and systemic white supremacy.”
“I’m tired of witnessing all of this police brutality going on in society today,” said Afro-Arab activist and student at Berkeley Robert Abousamra who spoke at the protest. “As a Black man myself, I’m tired of having to repeat myself over and over again and why Black lives have to matter — why we can’t say ‘all lives matter’ until Black lives matter. I’m tired of having to repeat myself when another Black man gets gunned down. When you see the community uniting over something like that, that’s when you know you need to be doing something; everyone needs to be doing something because this cause right now will make a lot of change in this country. When everyone unites, that’s how change becomes reality.”
After beginning with two minutes of silence to honor Breonna Taylor on what would have been her 27th birthday, speaker after speaker called on protesters to support and listen to Black individuals, educate others about the cause, end white supremacy and racism and defund or reform police departments across America.
“We are moving toward positioning to hold all perpetrators of state sponsored terror — namely police and sheriffs departments who hide under the cover of their badge — accountable,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director Zahra Billoo. “Communities of color think twice before calling the police and we pay them … the goal is accountability, reformation and defunding of the police so we aren’t spending money to arm those who will harm us.”
One of the more poignant moments of the protest came from community leader and poet Edil Youssuf who recited one of her original pieces but began by reading George Floyd’s final words. Protesters stood in silence as Youssuf read the words of Floyd crying out for his mother and stating he couldn’t breathe before succumbing to “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” caused by a carotid hold performed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, according to an independent autopsy performed after Floyd’s death.
“I’m a tough individual, but when [Floyd] called out for his mother, I couldn’t hold back,” said Sunnyvale resident Larry Wilson whose daughter Alanah Wilson spoke. “This is something that has been going on too long and I’m a little older than most of the people here. I’m glad these young folks and non-Black folks are seeing what’s going on.”
Khadija Matin, 18, of Dublin was one of the many young people who came out to show support and solidarity with the Black community. “Being a Musilm American I feel like we have to stand in solidarity with other minorities because we are all struggling and if we stand with those who are struggling it shows unity,” she said. “Standing together in unity is something that’s really important and we have to continue to do that because if we don’t stand together in unity, who is going to stand for us?”
In contrast to a number of protests held in nearby San Jose, Santa Clara Police Department Public Information Officer Captain Wahid Kazem said SCPD contacted the organizers of the protest and met with them prior to the demonstration to ensure they had the opportunity to voice their concerns peacefully. No police presence was needed during the protest, which also served as a fundraiser for People’s Breakfast Oakland, a Black socialist organization serving the homeless community by providing them with food, clothing and hygiene kits.