News

Protesters demanding justice for Breonna Taylor stop traffic in Menlo Park

Bay Area residents speak out days after grand jury decision in Louisville killing

Etika Fifita holds her fist in the air in support of the Black Lives Matter movement alongside other protesters blocking traffic at the intersection of Menlo and Ravenswood Avenue and El Camino Real in Menlo Park on Sept. 25. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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.

A protester holds a sign that reads "Stop Police Brutality" outside the Menlo Park Police Department on Sept. 25. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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.

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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.

A protester supporting the Black Lives Matter movement holds up a sign to drivers stuck at the intersection of Menlo and Ravenswood avenues and El Camino Real in Menlo Park on Sept. 25. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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."

Black Lives Matter protesters assemble outside the Menlo Park Police Department on Sept. 25. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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."

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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.

A watercolor painting by artist Edi Hsu shows some of the participants from the Menlo Park protest, including the local Raging Grannies activist organization. Photo by Edi Hsu.

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.

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Protesters demanding justice for Breonna Taylor stop traffic in Menlo Park

Bay Area residents speak out days after grand jury decision in Louisville killing

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 8:29 am

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.

Comments

Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 26, 2020 at 4:41 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2020 at 4:41 pm
51 people like this

Stopping traffic—violating other people's right to freedom of their movement—is not a valid form of free speech.

By all means, protest on private property. There are certainly injustices worth protesting. But I'm getting tired of seeing the entitlement of these protesters to interfere with my decisions and my life. The right to free speech does not include the right to be listened to, or in this case, to literally stop people from going where they want to go so you can yell things at them.


Enough
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 26, 2020 at 6:54 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2020 at 6:54 pm
48 people like this

Do protesters really think they benefit their cause by blocking traffic, making people who would otherwise by sympathetic angry at being blocked? The decision not to charge the officers certainly seems like a travesty of justice but it was not done here in Menlo Park, or even California. I believe that most likely the majority of residents in Menlo disagree with the decision so why block the streets? I hope the protesters were cited for breaking the law and that they have to pay their fines. Protesting is a great thing, breaking the law is not.


Sara T
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2020 at 12:27 pm
Sara T, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2020 at 12:27 pm
6 people like this

When people in cars honk, it's not in annoyance, but in support!


Kim
Registered user
Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 28, 2020 at 12:44 pm
Kim , Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2020 at 12:44 pm
14 people like this

Our impatience with protestors blocking traffic is part of the problem. Instead of seeing this as an inconvenience would we be open to the possibility of seeing this as an uncomfortable reminder that as white people we don’t have to worry about police knocking and entering the wrong residence in the middle of the night. It’s easy to say it didn’t happen here but it’s missing the bigger point. What if mistaken identity and address lead to the death of your child or family member? Would you want to let it go and ask everyone to forget it? There is a pattern to black deaths and when we tug at that string to unravel it, it is inconvenient and uncomfortable. What if it’s our fear of coming face-to-face with facts in real time instead of seeing it on TV or online? On Friday, the degree of separation was removed and stood in front of your car. We are uncomfortable, we are “inconvenienced”, we may be afraid to admit we are scared, we can say we have no skin in the game, we can say it doesn’t impact us, how come no one helps me? All the above may be true and quite frankly, it’s selfish thinking. When we look at the big picture we can see how we don’t like it but there is room for our internal thoughts and the peaceful protestors- even if it messes with your plans.


Lou Moffett
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 28, 2020 at 1:59 pm
Lou Moffett, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2020 at 1:59 pm
23 people like this

What is justice in the killing of Breonna Taylor? There were many faults to be found in that tragedy. Was a no-knock warrant necessary? Could the search have been done in the daytime? Could a bull horn have been used to assure that the residents that it was the police entering? However, once having entered, the police were fired upon and returned fire. Was it necessary to fire as many rounds as the police did?
Still, If you had been the policeman getting shot, would you have fired back? A grandjury of citizens used their judgment to not indict any of the police for the killing. Is there reason to believe that these citizens were biased? Perhaps their judgment was in line with the laws. If so, it was just.


Enough
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2020 at 10:25 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2020 at 10:25 pm
27 people like this

Sara T.

When I am honking I assure you it is not in support of blocking traffic and causing all the people trying to get some where an inconvenience. By some of the gestures I have observed at other protests that blocked traffic I would guess that not that many people are honking is support.


Alan
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm
Alan, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm
25 people like this

The "stopping traffic approach for increasing social consciousness" has always puzzled me. Consider: what causes people to actually change their minds? You want people to increase their empathy, to see how others don't receive the justice they deserve - great. However, if someone - in the middle of doing their daily chores - is significantly inconvenienced, they will be primarily thinking about how they will get their chores on time, not about the cause. Failing to show empathy to people going about their business is not likely to increase empathy towards your cause. If you actual examples where people say, "I never thought about this cause before, but since I've been stopped in traffic I'm fired up to fight for it," please let us know. Otherwise, it looks like it's doing something just for the sake of doing something.


Joseph E. Davis
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 29, 2020 at 4:37 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 4:37 pm
24 people like this

The definition of "selfish thinking" is being so convinced that your message is right and important that you are willing to occupy and deny access to a public resource that others depend on for their daily lives.


Steve_J
Registered user
another community
on Oct 1, 2020 at 2:46 pm
Steve_J, another community
Registered user
on Oct 1, 2020 at 2:46 pm
5 people like this

Rest assured I was not honking in support. Protest all you want on side walks, etc. Blocking traffic is that a way to get support.


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