At 4 pm on Friday, June 5th, 2020, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of San José City Hall to honor the life of Breonna Taylor on what would have been her 27th Birthday. They were there to call for an end to nationwide racially targeted police brutality and murder. They were there to demand action from the city regarding the San José Police Department. They were there to say that they were paying attention. They were there to say, Black Lives Matter.
Unlike the proceeding days of protests which were primarily impromptu, this event was organized and promoted by the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP Chapter and Events For Us. The main event of the day would be a “Die-In” in which all participants would lie on the ground for eight-minutes to represent the eight bullet wounds that killed Breonna Taylor.
The afternoon started with speeches from several members of the NAACP Youth Council demanding action, demanding an end to silence and demanding to address the root issues, not another band-aid for a gushing wound. The fiery words of these young leaders were followed by a speech of equal sentiment by the well known Reverend Jethro Moore II. The event included a plethora of local community leaders from diverse backgrounds and organizations. Some of the speakers included Assemblymember Ash Kalra with a call to the polls, Laurie Valdez from Justice for Josiah calling on the community to remember the local lives lost to police brutality in our own city, Matthew Dumanig of Kabaatan Alliance declaring solidarity from the Filipino community, as well as a statement from our own Tara McHugh acknowledging the privilege afforded to white allies as well as a condemnation of white supremacy and a promise to stand by the Black Lives Matter movement until real change is implemented, locally and nationwide.
The Die-In portion began with Raina Munson reading a long, seemingly endless roll of names of victims of fatal police violence. Then Jalyn Mitchell of Events for Us invited the thousands of attendees to lie down on the pavement of City Hall plaza, knees bent, bodies cramped and sweaty in the hot sun as they reflected on the cause of Breonna Taylor’s death on the day she was supposed to be celebrating her 27th birthday. The solidarity, power, and magnitude of this action were undeniable to any who witnessed or participated in it.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of this event was its true intersectionality. The NAACP’s Die-in set a standard for all future community action events. It brought together an incredibly diverse group of community organizations ranging from youth groups which have formed during the last few weeks, respected local organizations such as Silicon Valley DeBug, and even local Brown Lives Justice groups such as Justice for Josiah. The speakers were truly diverse in terms of background, race, age, experience, etc. This forged coalition is powerful and immovable, and proof that we are only beginning to see the change it will bring in San José.