Pleasanton residents showed up in force to protest against racism and police brutality at two well-attended demonstrations this weekend.
On Friday, more than 2,000 protesters peacefully took to the streets of Pleasanton, shutting down roadways and uniting together in opposition to the mistreatment of African Americans both locally and nationally -- on what would have been the 27th birthday of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro police on March 13.
Then on Sunday, hundreds of cars drove one behind the other in a coordinated loop around central Pleasanton, including downtown, in a caravan to support the Black Lives Matter movement and oppose racial injustice in America.
Both peaceful demonstrations, organized by teens and young adults in Pleasanton, drew supporters from across the spectrum by the hundreds -- wrapping up a weeklong stretch of large-scale, non-violent protests in each Tri-Valley city inspired, like others nationwide, by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
The student-led protest and march on Friday afternoon began with a rally at Amador Valley Community Park, followed by a walk up Santa Rita Road and across Valley Avenue to the Hopyard Road intersection where a moment of silence was held for eight minutes and 46 seconds -- in recognition of the amount of time Floyd suffocated while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck on Memorial Day.
"It is extremely important that Pleasanton and neighboring areas let our voices be heard because this is a predominantly white community and with whiteness comes a special privilege and power that is needed to ignite change," 19-year-old McKenzie Reese, a protest organizer, said at the rally. "We are here to take a stand and show the world that all lives cannot matter until black lives matter."
"This fight doesn't stop here today, we must continue to deconstruct laws and policies that perpetuate social injustice and replace them," she added.
"African American people are five times more likely to be killed by the police and 2.5 times more likely to be convicted for something they didn't even do. That's a problem with the system all the way from the top to the bottom. That's an issue that needs to be changed," added Foothill High School sophomore Aryan Ohri, a fellow protest organizer.
Like similar displays in Dublin, San Ramon and Livermore before it, the Pleasanton protesters came together in condemnation of white supremacy and institutionalized racism found in communities throughout the country.
Friday's protest was led and organized by a group of local teenage activists, who actively encouraged their peers to join in and participate in the ongoing movement.
"There is power in your words. It's my duty to fight for what I believe in and express it with my words," 19-year-old Joy Moore said at the pre-march rally. "To my fellow youth, y'all know we aren't just the future; we are the present, and never let anyone tell you that it is too early to fight for justice. Continue to educate yourself on your rights and get active in the change."
Protesters worked in collaboration with the city's police department in order to ensure a safe and peaceful demonstration, with Pleasanton police providing officers to close off roadways in advance of the procession.
Chief David Swing, who is in just his second week with the Pleasanton Police Department, attended the rally and spoke briefly about his condemnation of Floyd's killing and expressed his support for the peaceful gathering.
"The death of George Floyd is reprehensible and wrong. The city of Pleasanton and the Pleasanton Police Department condemns the actions of those four officers in Minneapolis," Swing said at the gathering. "We are committed to transparency and to partner with the community so we can understand the needs of the community that we serve, and that starts with listening and seeing."
Friday marked the fifth sizable peaceful protests against racism and police brutality held in the Tri-Valley during the week, with the first held in Dublin on Monday, followed by one in Danville on Tuesday, one in San Ramon on Wednesday and one in Livermore on Thursday.
Then on late Sunday afternoon, hundreds of students and families from throughout the Tri-Valley took part in a caravan protest through central Pleasanton in support of racial justice.
Many participants held signs or decorated their cars to share their messages in support of Black Lives Matter and in opposition of racism, injustice and police brutality.
The two-hour-long car caravan began at the U.S. Post Office at 4300 Black Ave. and headed toward downtown. Participants reached major checkpoint intersections at Main Street and Bernal Avenue, Bernal Avenue and Valley Avenue, Valley Avenue and Hopyard Road, and Valley Avenue and Santa Rita Road. Police appeared to provide traffic control during the event.
The peaceful protest was organized by students from Amador Valley High School's class of 2019, in affiliation with Black Lives Matter.
"Organizers, participants, students seek to publicize the issue of racial injustice and police brutality in Pleasanton. Protesters want to denounce the presence of racism and complacency in our community. Organizers hope to demonstrate that participation in the movement for racial justice is possible without having to sacrifice health safety concerns," organizers said beforehand.