Black Lives Matter supporters gathered in downtown San Jose at the Plaza de César Chávez June 9 to honor those who have lost their lives from police brutality.
The stage of the plaza was filled with local leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, with hundreds of supporters surrounding them and spilling into the park.
Many shared their personal experiences of police violence, the effects of systematic racism and their hope that the continued support and action of the Black Lives Matter movement can in time bring justice and peace to their communities.
“As a Black man, especially a dark skinned man, I’ve been through a lot with the police,” Shareef Allman Jr, author and activist, said.
Allman said he was in handcuffs for the first time when he was 14 for a crime that he did not commit.
“So I just hope my kids never have to go through that because it sucks, it’s very traumatizing having to wonder if this beanie or black hoodie I’m wearing will get me shot,” Allman said.
Many spoke about how in addition to the physical violence people of color are faced with, the mental health issues that result from the injustices they face every day, such as anxiety and PTSD, go unacknowledged and untreated.
“We shouldn’t be living in anxiety, PTSD, in fear of the police who are supposed to be helping and supporting us,” Monte Clark, incoming San Jose State University student, said.
Allman also spoke about how his father, Shareef Allman Sr, was shot 44 times by police officers after fleeing the scene of a triple homicide he committed at his work in Cupertino in 2011.
He felt that the narrative surrounding his father’s crimes were not taking into account the decades of mistreatment he faced in the workplace and how he repressed the psychological struggles he was battling, culminating in his violent actions.
He also said that the punishment for the crimes his father committed would not have been so cruel had he not been a Black man.
“If he was white, things would have ended differently, they don’t gun white men down with 44 rounds,” Allman said, “My father did a very terrible crime, but sometimes I wish maybe he could be in prison.”
A common theme throughout the proceedings was the desire for peace, both in the community and during protests.
“We’re just out here being positive, we have a peaceful protest, nothing is being broken,” Allman said.
Following the speeches, participants knelt and held a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds in honor of George Floyd.
Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, as the officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck.
There was a candle lighting ceremony around the altar made at the base of the plaza stage steps to honor Floyd others killed by the police.
After participants paid their respects, pictures were taken and a march from the plaza to City Hall took place with chants of “Peace starts with me!” and “No justice, no peace!” roaring from the crowd.
Clark said that the portrayal of Black Lives Matter protests in the media have shown that even though violence from protesters has occurred in mostly isolated incidents, work needs to be done to stop it from happening all together for the narrative to change.
“We need to really control the narrative because we don’t want violence, we don’t want to light things up, we don’t want to destroy America, we want to build it and we really want to make America right,” Clark said. “There’s people who don’t want this to happen and they’ll find any point to dismantle this.”
Clark said that Black Lives Matter supporters just want human rights for Black people.
“We want peace, unity, solidarity and justice, that’s not a lot to ask for it’s not,” Clark said.