The aftershock of a “White Lives Matter” demonstration in the East Bay over the weekend is hitting close to home for many as a new week begins.
Some Bay Area leaders are taking a stance, saying the events were unacceptable.
Arnold Ramirez has lived in Blackhawk for five years now and says he’s felt welcomed. But hearing about Saturday’s demonstration in Danville upsets him.
On Saturday, a small group of demonstrators, faces covered, held up signs that read “White Lives Matter” and “We will not forget Waukesha,” referring to the Waukesha, Wis., incident in which a Black driver drove into a holiday parade, killing five people.
The “White Lives Matter” demonstration happened the same day as Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a white teenager targeted a Black community.
Ramirez says those people don’t represent Blackhawk.
“I really never encountered those people that were saying something like that — yet,” he told NBC Bay Area.
Veronica Benjamin, co-founder of the group Conscious Contra Costa, disagrees.
“There are many things to indicate that this was an organized group of white supremacists who are in concert, or listening in to conversations within the national white supremacist network,” she said.
Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich issued a statement to make it clear his town doesn’t condone that behavior.
“As most reasonable people do, I share the visceral reactions of many in our community to hate speech groups and hate in general,” Arnerich wrote. “This past Saturday, a small group of people stood at the corner of Blackhawk Road and Camino Tassajara Road, displaying banners, one of which read ‘White Lives Matter’. Although this took place on private property, just outside of our town boundaries, the incident was reported and town officials were made aware of it as well.
“Those responsible made sure to cowardly cover their faces and hide behind their signs,” Arnerich wrote.
“These people were acting out hate speech. Though not a crime, this was clearly an abhorrent gesture towards people of color. People and groups like these are looking for confrontation and publicity, and we will not condone them nor give them any credibility, attention, or the publicity they are seeking. Our town stands united against racism in any form and any acts that direct harm or hatred toward people based upon race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability,” the mayor said.
“Free speech is very painful and hurtful at times,” Arnerich wrote. “We do not have to listen or give them any credibility. The horrific mass shooting that took place this past weekend in Buffalo, New York, demonstrates the incredible division that exists in our country.”
“The shooter, who is now in custody, posted a document prior to the mass shooting, centered on a far-right conspiracy theory that baselessly posits that the white population in western countries is being reduced or replaced by immigrants in a deliberate plot,” the mayor said.
“The shooter, in this case, will be taken out of society and imprisoned for life at the expense of ten innocent people. This price is too much to pay for simple justice for one prejudiced person’s actions,” he said.
“Danville Town Council, our police department and town staff continue to work to make Danville a safe place for everyone where we can celebrate our diversity and strive for equality for all members of our community,” Arnerich said.
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe also felt the ripple effect of Saturday’s demonstration and said he’s “getting more and more concerned.”
The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office told NBC Bay Area Sunday that it responded to the demonstration and determined the group was not violating the law.
Bay City News contributed to this report.