OAKLAND (CBS SF) — They came by the thousands to Lake Merritt, spending a Sunday afternoon, enjoying the sunshine, a good meal prepared on the barbecue and making a statement of protest.
The gathering came about after a woman was recorded on cell phone video calling Oakland police last month on an African-American family that was barbecuing on the lake nearby.
The video struck a nerve and protesters say they are tired of people calling police without real cause.
The woman in the video insisted she wasn’t racist. She said she just wanted the police to come because barbecuing with coal was against the rules in that particular area. She collapsed in tears once the officer finally arrived.
But the video has inspired social media memes and was even lampooned on Saturday Night Live. It has sparked protests in Oakland including Sunday’s gathering.
“I’ve been here since ’75 and we’ve always been out here to see everybody come together and have a good time,” Randy told KPIX 5 as he stood over his grill.” That’s why I didn’t understand what happened … One person tried to spoil the fun for everybody else.”
Fellow participant Stephanie Willis agreed.
“I feel that was very unfair because black people should be able to come out here and barbecue,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for years.”
“That was so senseless and so petty,” she continued. “So black people are going to come together anyway … We unite.”
Many who gathered said the barbecue wasn’t about making a broad stand against racism. They had a very specific message.
“Stop calling the police and mind your own business,” said Jhamel, one of the event organizers. “I mean obviously if there’s a crime going on (call the police), but I mean … what crime was there when they were barbecuing?”
The organizers of the “BBQing While Black” event hoped the large crowd would drive that message home.
“That’s why I brought the big barbecue,” Randy said. “You’d really have to call the National Guard because the police department is not big enough for this.”