"They conduct unlawful searches, basically racially profiling people and pulling them over hoping that they find contraband," Faraji alleged. "Oftentimes, these altercations end up with them being violent."
The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office did not respond to requests for comment.
One East Palo Alto resident and a former Menlo Park resident — who said he recently moved out of California to escape the city's police force — spoke about the abuse they say they've experienced by county and Menlo Park authorities. Both spoke of intimidation, harassment and the trauma after their incidents.
Protestors also paid tribute to Chinedu Valentine Okobi, a 36-year-old man who died in 2018 after San Mateo County sheriff's deputies tasered, pepper-sprayed and beat him with batons in Millbrae after stopping him on suspicion of jaywalking. The county is paying Okobi's family a $4.5 million settlement, which was made public last week.
The beating and death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers provided the impetus for the protest. To Faraji, Nichols' death isn't unique to Tennessee, and stories like Okobi's and others' in the county serve as a grave reminder that San Mateo County is not immune to such brutality.
"What happens to Tyre Nichols is happening here. So when you see these cases, I want you to remember that," he said. "It's eventually going to lead to an incident where you have someone who is a young Black or brown person trying to enjoy their life get racially profiled, beaten up and killed. That's where all this is headed. It's a trainwreck that's just waiting to happen."
According to data collected by the research group Mapping Police Violence, Black people accounted for 27% of those killed by police in 2021 despite making up 13% of the population. They also found that Black people are 2.9 times more likely to be killed by police than white people.
Protester and East Palo Alto resident Nae Carmelo echoed Faraji's concerns about the disproportionate violence nationwide.
"I came out to support today because what's happening to Tyre Nichols and his family all the way in Memphis is the same thing that's happening to my neighbors right here in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park," she said.
In a statement issued on Friday, Jan. 27, following the release of the footage showing the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said she condemned "what's seen in this video in the strongest possible terms."
"What I saw those police officers do to Tyre Nichols is deeply disturbing, and their actions stain our profession," Corpus said in her statement. "The actions of these officers greatly damaged the trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve."
Saturday's protest began at 1010 El Camino Real in front of Kepler's Books and Cafe Borrone, then traveled through Menlo Park. The stream of people included skaters, students and members of the anti-war organization Raging Grannies.
Marchers halted traffic on the intersection of El Camino and Ravenswood Avenue for a moment, as the red, black and green of a large Pan-African flag held up by Faraji rippled through the air above. Another protestor waved a flag with the United Farm Workers of America's motto written on it, "S?, se puede," or "Yes, it can be done!"
Marchers then stopped at Menlo Park City Hall, where they rallied against what they called the lack of government action.
"Reports have been filed, and there's been zero accountability from this department. We're sick, and we're tired from it," Faraji alleged, shouting through his megaphone directed at City Hall.
According to Faraji, fear also deters residents from reporting their encounters with the police.
"The people that (police) are victimizing, that are marginalized and disenfranchised, are afraid to go and report it," Faraji alleged. "There are a large majority that are afraid, terrified, because the gang task force is known to be vindictive and retaliate."
Nicole Acker, a senior management analyst at the Menlo Park police department, said Monday that the department was aware of the planned demonstration.
"Our department never needed to engage the demonstration in any way," Acker said. "We are grateful that this demonstration of constitutional privilege was accomplished peacefully.
"They peacefully protested in front of the police department for approximately 10 minutes before returning to their original location and dispersing on their own without incident," Acker added.
She did not respond to a question about the protesters' allegations of police brutality incidents involving Menlo Park officers.
Through the protest, Faraji and Tha Hood Squad members hoped to get the attention of public officials. Working with the Black and brown community and holding local law enforcement accountable are among the chief demands of elected officials.
"If really truly where your heart and soul is is with protecting people and looking for folks' best interests, then please do so, and do so for all people, regardless of racial background," Faraji said. "Let's create a just and equitable community that's not based on bias and discrimination."
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