Hundreds of protesters braved scorching 100 degree heat and took to the streets of San Ramon on Wednesday, in a mass demonstration that condemned racism and police brutality both locally and across the county.
The most recent Tri-Valley protest inspired by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, the non-violent demonstration shut down a large section of central San Ramon from 5 to 7:30 p.m. as protesters marched from Valley View Park, down Bollinger Canyon Road all the way to San Ramon City Hall where a rally was held.
Primarily led by local youth activists, the demonstration prioritized peaceful protests and the amplification of black voices, all while stressing the point that issues revolving around racism and police brutality are not isolated to large metropolitan areas.
"(Suburban residents) are often unaware of the issues; they are sometimes sheltered and are not aware of things that happen to us," said San Ramon resident Courtney Smith. "San Ramon is my safe place, so it's important for the people in my community to know what we go through on a daily basis."
Smith did add however, that despite the prevalent issues in the region, the size and diverse makeup of the protests was an encouraging sight, saying: "I think to see all the different backgrounds and ethnicities, this is what our community is. We are not just one demographic, we are a whole lot of different people and this shows it right here. And I can't be proud enough to say I am from San Ramon because we do care too."
"With everything happening in the world today, like we were just saying, you need to be the change you want to see. This is a peaceful protest and we are just going to try and go out there and show that we're angry and we're fighting for a good cause. Not in a violent way, but in a way that we are going to be heard and cause change," Keith Smith added.
Several hundred residents participated in the march, which was met with cooperation from the San Ramon Police Department, who collaborated with organizers and sent officers in advance of the group, shutting down streets to motorists in order to ensure a safe event.
Marching down Bollinger Canyon Road, protesters chanted familiar sayings of the movement such as "No Justice, No Peace," and "Black Lives Matter," as well as chanting the names of Black Americans recently killed including Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Upon reaching the Bollinger Canyon Road-Canyon View Circle intersection, the procession took a knee for an eight-minute moment of silence, doing so in recognition of the amount of time Floyd suffocated while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.
Afterward, the group continued on to San Ramon City Hall, where participants shared testimonials about life and issues of Black people in the San Ramon Valley, sang songs and performed live poetry.
Continuing the theme of addressing how national problems are also present in the local community, at the rally participants decried not only the recent cases of police brutality suffered by people of color all across the country, but numerous instances right here in the San Ramon Valley.
From racist graffiti in schools to daily microaggressions and police profiling, rally testimonials highlighted that issues surrounding racism are still very much local issues.
"I've experienced racism at Cal High the whole time I was there, and I don't think kids around here really understand it. So it's important to bring awareness to this community, just because it's a nicer area, I don't think (locals) really grasp the issues," Kayla M told DanvilleSanRamon.com.
"They make light of it, they'll make jokes about it," added Kalen M.
While these issues are very much relevant in the region, organizers did thank the San Ramon Police Chief Craig Stevens for his support during the City Hall rally.
A number of local officials attended the rally, including San Ramon City Councilwoman Sabina Zafar, State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Danville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Zae Perrin.
Perrin addressed the crowd directly on Wednesday, saying: "There was a social media post and it said 'Zae, how are we gonna stop it?' It's called physics, the only way we stop it is with a force as strong if not stronger. I am proud to stand here and have all of you supporting me and supporting my family. I can't tell you what that means."
"I am proud that you are here to support, but go know your neighbors, go introduce yourself let them know who you are, let them know your pain, let them know your goals, let them know your love, because that's how we get the entire population down here standing for each other," he added.
This was the third peaceful protest in the Tri-Valley, with the first occurring in Dublin on Monday, followed by one in Danville on Tuesday.
There is one more planned Tri-Valley protest related to racism and the Black Lives Matter movement coming up, with Pleasanton residents having scheduled one for 2 p.m. on Friday in front of Amador Valley Community Park, 4301 Black Ave. Pleasanton protest organizers say they have been working with local police in order to ensure that protest is another one.