Bay Area Rallies for Racial Justice, Police Accountability

A host of rallies and marches for racial justice and police accountability were on tap in the Bay Area on Thursday, from public defenders showing their support for "Black Lives Matter," to activists in San Jose demanding a police officer be fired after he allegedly post threatening tweets toward protesters.

All the demonstrations stem from the summer deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Both African-American men were killed by white police officers who grand juries found were not criminally responsible for their deaths.

At 8:10 a.m., Alameda County public defenders stood for 4 and a half minutes of silence at the Oakland courthourse, wearing black gloves that symbolize "Hands Up, Don't Shoot!"

Public Defender Brendon Woods, who the first African-American to head the office, stood on the steps and said that he wanted to honor all those who "have been killed and not received justice simply because they were black."

He said a large part of why he became a public defender is because "All Black Lives Matter," citing statistics that show black men are incarcerated and killed at higher rates than whites. He cited a 2013 study that said 1 out of 15 black men in the United States are in prison compared to 1 out of 106 white men. He also said that in 2012, Santa Rita Jail housed 54 percent African American imates, when they only make up 12 percent of the population in the county.

San Francisco public defenders held a similar rally at noon, and offices in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties are also holding similar rallies. In Brooklyn, public defenders held a "die-in" on Thursday, but the Bay Area effort by public defenders is believed to be the first of its kind in California.

Then at 4 p.m., the Coalition for Justice and Accountability marched from the Santa Clara County government building to the San Jose police department.

Protesters handed over documentation of an online petition they say contains more than 15,000 electronic signatures calling for the termination of Officer Phillip White. The coalition has started its own hashtag #FireWhiteNow.

White has declined to be interviewed.

San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel met the protesters outside police headquarters, took a bullhorn and addressed the crowd: "Being a native of San Jose, this is important to me, as a person of color and as a chief. Believe me, this is very troubling for us as an organization."

White was embroiled in controversy over social-media posts, first reported by Buzzfeed, that he allegedly made on Twitter against "Black Lives Matter" protesters. The most inflammatory tweets read, "Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter" and "By the way if anyone feels they can't breathe or their lives matter I'll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun."

White has since been placed on paid administrative leave while the police department, which has denounced the posts, investigates his alleged acts.

The coalition, which comprises the Silicon Valley NAACP, Asian Law Alliance, and social-justice media collective Silicon Valley De-Bug, also hopes to pressure the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office to file charges against two San Jose State University officers in the February shooting of Antonio Lopez Guzman, who was killed just outside campus after police say he charged them with a jagged-edge knife. The medical examiner said he was shot twice in the back.

NBC Bay Area's Josh Keppel contributed to this report.

Contact Us