Fremont mayor addresses refusal to kneel, as hundreds march to police headquarters

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Friday, June 5, 2020
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"For myself as a Christian, I do not kneel, except for when I'm praying. And so, therefore, I'd offered- even today- to give an opportunity to get on both my knees and to pray," said Mayor Mei.

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 300 people made the 2-mile walk from Washington High School to Fremont Police Department (FPD) headquarters on Thursday.

Compared to Tuesday's crowd of thousands, the day brought fewer protesters, but the same push for an end to police brutality.

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For resident Sultan McBride, the march brought a powerful teaching moment for his eight-year-old daughter Karina.

The two joined hundreds, filling the FPD parking lot.

"She kind of asked me questions as to what's going on, and I was like, 'Okay, I'll show you,'" McBride said.

At FPD, between chants, the group had a moment of silence.

The hundreds demonstrated outside a barricaded police department, demanding change.

"We have a police force here, we have young people, older people," McBride said. "And you know, what can happen in another place can happen here as well."

In the crowd, Mayor Lily Mei. She's facing criticism after refusing to kneel with protesters during Tuesday's event.

One organizer told ABC7 News, her inaction explained everything.

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"I almost prefer it, because I want to know where you stand, rather than your propaganda of kneeling," Harley Litzelman said. "I would rather us be honest about whether you're on the side of the people, or you're on the side of police. She chose the police, not the people."

So we asked Mayor Mei. She explained, "I think that it's very important to be able to express solidarity and sympathy for others."

However, she said kneeling has everything to do with her faith.

"For myself as a Christian, I do not kneel, except for when I'm praying," Mei said. "And so, therefore, I'd offered- even today- to give an opportunity to get on both my knees and to pray."

On Thursday, that moment never came.

ABC7 News was there when the first protester arrived at 4 p.m. With his parents' permission, 16-year-old Anthony Fort explained why he was protesting.

"I got to protest for my people. It's a lot going on with the cops hurting innocent black people for no reason and it's just crazy how- it's like, I got to walk outside every day and just be scared of the people that's supposed to be protecting us," Fort explained.

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Fort continued, "No matter what color or what skin you are, at the end of the day, like- what race you are, if we get cut or we get hit any type of way, we all bleed the same blood."

According to Litzelman, protesters have three demands:

  • Termination of the relationship between the Fremont Unified School District and FPD.
  • Protesters are calling for a redirection of funding from the police other community services like housing, education, jobs, and healthcare.
  • Protesters are calling for all political candidates in Fremont to reject any money from police organizations.

"The police do not keep us safe. We are safe because of the community and institutions we've built to protect our health and protect one another," he said.

Another issue brought up by protesters was the on-going citywide curfew. Mei confirmed the curfew would expire at 5 a.m. on Friday. The curfew was initially expected to last through June 8.

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