Black staff, faculty stage silent protest at Sproul

Members of the campus community silently protest killings of blacks by police officers. (UC Berkeley photos by Cathy Cockrell)

Members of the campus community silently protest killings of blacks by police officers. (UC Berkeley photos by Cathy Cockrell)

More than 100 members of the African American community at UC Berkeley held a silent protest in front of Sproul Hall on Monday to demonstrate solidarity with the nationwide #BlackLivesMatter movement of recent weeks.

two women holding signs

Campus protesters speak out in silence.

Standing two to five deep across the width of the Savio Steps, campus staff, faculty, students and alums stood silently for 28 minutes, in a driving rain, shortly after noon.

The duration of the silence was by design. “We’re here to proclaim that black lives matter and inform others that every 28 hours a black person is killed by law enforcement, vigilantes or security,” the Black Staff and Faculty Organization (BSFO), which organized the action, said in a flyer.

“Our silence is respectful of the time of year for our students,” who are taking finals, “but our voices will be heard and our message clear,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande – one of a number of top administrators present — said in a statement for the group.

Some wore tape across their mouths. Others held signs reading “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Always Matter,” along with more Berkeley-specific messages: “#Ferguson2CAL” and “Not on Our Watch.”

“My heart needed to be here,” said Annette Lewis, a Campus Shared Services staffer. “All lives matter,” but recent events – where white police officers have been exonerated in killings of black youth – have “really affected the African American community,” she said. Lewis herself has young black men in her life, including a son in his 20s, and prays for their safety daily, she added.

African American students on campus have been protesting “quite a while now,” said another participant, adding that “we want them to know we’re here with you. We’re going to do what we can.”