A sparse but enthusiastic crowd attended this event on July 25. It was held in front of the Department of Public Safety at 500 City Center Drive in Rohnert Park. It was hosted by the Sonoma Black Equity & Equality Coalition and started just after 3 p.m. According to the event’s social media post, the purpose of this call to action was to “demand our local elected officials do more to provide law enforcement reform, ending systemic racism and oppression in public policies and practices, we want them to do more than just schedule listening sessions and NOT addressing the public. We will protest the insensitivity of our mayor, the handling of the Black social justice movement and the overall ignoring of their constituents. We will gather and show the town we want more community oversight, transparency and engagement from our local government.”
Jimauri Moore, a young 26-year-old resident of Rohnert Park organized the event and acted as master of ceremonies. He has been very visible in many protests locally, sharing his experiences and pushing for change in the city and county. He was appointed to represent Sonoma County’s Third District by Supervisor Shirley Zane as the district’s representative on the Sonoma County Human Rights Commission, He was sworn in on Mon., July 27.
Various dignitaries were in attendance. They included Vice Mayor Jake Mackenzie who was invited by Moore. Mackenzie didn’t speak, he was there to listen. He said his motto was “I show up!” Jackie Elward who is running for city council against Mackenzie in District 4 was also present. Moore introduced her and she spoke for a few minutes about why she was running and the need to bring change to the city.
Natalie Rogers, also a woman of color, followed speaking on similar themes. Running for city council, District 7 in Santa Rosa, Rogers stressed it was a time for a change. Rubin Scott who is the current President of the Sonoma County NAACP Chapter also spoke. Scott said the biggest obstacle his community is facing is trying to define the question of “What is it to be equal?” He also said, “we need everyone to stand with us, to continue the fight for equality.”
Mask Sonoma was also present with their little red wagon filled with water and masks. They participate in many of the protest events in the county to help make sure the crowd stays hydrated and remains safe. Refreshments and snacks were also available for the crowd during the breaks in the program. Scott Starr was there as a safety observer and to record events as needed. This was a peaceful protest. Participants wore masks and practiced social distancing.
In talking with Moore, part of his frustration with the city was their refusal to listen to their constituents. He specifically referenced the recent issues on shifting council elections from at-large to by-district. He’s written letters but only council member Gina Belforte and Vice Mayor Mackenzie responded. But their answers to his questions were unsatisfactory according to Moore. He did attend the listening session on July 22 but was upset with how it went. He was disappointed that more people of color didn’t show up to participate.
He also said the community needs more than “nice but meaningless gestures.” He wants to see real change. A civilian oversight committee for the Public Safety Department for example. More transparency in the data and actions taken by city officials. Less spending on military gear for the police, more for mental health and social services. And the need to have minority officers as part of the force.
He and all speakers thanked the allies in attendance. They said they are important. Many black and brown folks don’t feel safe coming out and protesting. Moore said, “it begins with us.” Although we can’t go to city hall because of the pandemic, we still need to “make our voices heard.”