Since an unarmed black teenager was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, demonstrators have flooded America’s streets to bring the nation’s attention to what they say is an epidemic of police brutality.
Over the weekend in New York City and Oakland, Calif., they tried a different tactic. Tweeting the hashtag #BlackBrunchNYC, protesters targeted what they called “white spaces” — brunch spots.
More than 30 demonstrators staged events at restaurants such as Lallisse, Maialino and Pershing Square, Yahoo reported. The protesters, most dressed in black, read the names of African Americans killed by police punctuated with chants of “ashe,” a word from the Yoruba language of West Africa comparable to “amen.” Timed by participants, the ritual takes four-and-a-half minutes — since Michael Brown’s body was left on the street for four-and-a-half hours in Ferguson.
“Every 28 hours, a black person in America is killed by the police,” the protesters said. “These are our brothers and sisters. Today and every day, we honor their lives.”
Black brunches are not the product of an organization, but a grassroots movement intended to bring police brutality to the attention of those who have chosen to ignore it, participants said.
“People who have money and privilege have the leisure to brunch,” Carrie Leilam Love, media liaison for the group Black Brunch NYC, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “Other people don’t.”
Love said the first black brunch was held in Oakland in December. Some met with an unexpected political action while dining are supportive — others object to what they call an inconvenience. But Love said they need to pay attention.
“It is an inconvenience to us to be shot in the street,” she said. “… We respectfully demand that people demand that people take five minutes of their time to look at what life is like for us every day.”
In videos and photographs, the atmosphere at black brunches appears charged. “Ma’am, please leave,” a staff member told one protester at Resto in New York, as seen in this Instagram video:
As also seen in some videos, not all participants in black brunches are black. “It is a black-led action,” Love said. “That’s the model. We as black people take full responsibility for our own freedom. We also have allies in that struggle.” As often happens, a Twitter hashtag provoked a Twitter backlash.
Participants didn’t regret the inconvenience.
“We are peacefully and publicly mourning and saying the names of innocent slain Black Americans for 4 ½ minutes and we’re not sorry for interrupting your Brunch,” Iris Dillard, a Berkeley student who participated in a protest over the weekend, wrote The Post in an e-mail. “The fact that people are negatively responding to the #BlackBrunch and not the illness of racism and the myth of American progress, disturbs me more than anything.”
Though there is no plan for future black brunches, Love said more could be coming.
“It’s a model and a toolkit,” she said. “There may be actions in any city in the country.”