OAKLAND, Calif. — Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, California’s Bay Area played backdrop to a number of different events as part of the second annual #96Hours action organized by the Anti Police-Terror Organization. Many of these events were attended by local Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens. The weekend action, consisting of everything from protests to vigils, culminated in a march through the city of Oakland.T. Thorn Coyle, who had been involved with the Anti Police-Terror Organization all year, helped to coordinate the first #96Hours action in 2015. This year was no different. In an email, Coyle told The Wild Hunt, “It is important to us that we honor the radical legacy of Dr. King – as called for by Black leadership – rather than upholding the whitewashed and sanitized Dr. King that so much of white America insists on remembering. King grew more and more radical before his death, when he had close to 30% approval among white Americans. This is around the same amount of approval white Americans currently give to Black Lives Matter and anti police brutality movements. We need to rethink what we value in this country. As a Pagan, I value justice, beauty, equity, and love. I try to act towards those qualities and join in community with others who uphold them.”
As she noted, the #96Hours action is part of a larger movement to reclaim Martin Luther King Jr.’s radical legacy. The common hashtag being used is #ReclaimMLK.
The Oakland #96Hour weekend events began on Friday, Jan. 15 with 7 am meditation and, then, continued on from there. At 4 pm, Coyle participated in the “Can You See Me?” Interfaith Procession in Remembrance of Black Lives in Oakland. As she described, the service was led by a Rabbi, Imam, and two Christian ministers, with Buddhists leading meditation. Then, there was a processional of nine coffins, representing those killed locally by police in 2015. That ended at Lake Merritt, where a tenth coffin was floating to represent those people whose names were not known.
While at the lake, Coyle led the group in song and prayer, asking them “to call upon the ancestors and [their] beloved dead, naming those killed by police.” She explained that “Pagan and polytheist traditions it is important to many of us to remember and call upon our beloved dead, asking them to walk with us.”
Agrocunos and other members of Coru Cathubodua were also in attendance at Saturday’s action at the Oakland airport. Starting 6 p.m., terminal passengers were “greeted by activists chanting the names of People of Color killed by the police in the Bay Area, holding signs reading ‘Welcome to Oakland.’ ” This same action was then repeated on Sunday at the San Francisco airport, a much larger and busier facility.
Morpheus Ravenna, Lore Chieftain, Coru Cathubodua Priesthood said, “In the San Francisco Bay Area, nonviolent Black Lives Matter demonstrators have often been met with excessive force and violence. We find that the presence of clergy people acting in solidarity can help protect the community while underscoring the moral and spiritual imperatives of the movement.”The events noted above were only a few of the many that were organized over the 96 hour period that culminated in a Monday march through the streets of Oakland. This final action attracted the largest Pagan, Polytheist and Heathen contingent, many of whom walked behind a large banner reading, “Pagans United for Justice.”
Kristen Oliver and Rose Quartz of the Mills College Pagan Alliance were two of those walking. Oliver said, “Rose and I went to the march to honor MLK and stand with the people who he died to raise up who are still dying in our streets. I have always been an out and proud Pagan and so was happy to join the group of Pagans marching today under the ‘Pagans United for Justice’ banner. As someone who works to raise the visibility of Pagans in the public eye I have always said I would love to see more of our community out there working for social justice. And yet I have to admit that today I felt a bit disingenuous about identifying myself as anything other than just a person who wants humanity to learn to understand each other and stop hurting each other. Dr. King’s legacy and the Black Lives Matter movement is far too important to dilute or hijack with personal agendas and yet it is so important to show that support comes from many different places. I am still grappling with this question of intention tonight.”
Marching along side the Oliver and Quartz were members of Coru Cathubodua, Solar Cross Temple, Golden Gate Kindred, Reclaiming and more. Ryan Smith of the Golden Gate Kindred posted on Facebook: “Our kindred puts our words into action!”Beginning around 11am, marchers walked from “Oscar Grant Plaza,14th & Broadway, to the Bay St Mall in Emeryville” and were reportedly close to 1000 people strong.
Then, as the march neared its end, an unscheduled action took place on one side of the Bay Bridge. Around 4 pm, 25 Black Lives Matter protesters stopped a line of cars, chained themselves and the cars together, blocking the entire side of the road. Their original intent was to remain in that position for 96 minutes in honor of the #96hours of action. However, the protesters were only there for 30 minutes before being arrested. The entire event was reportedly peaceful.
The #96Hours and, more specifically, the #ReclaimMLK actions were not limited to the Bay Area, attracting attention and inspiring action throughout the country. While the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend is now officially over, the #ReclaimMLK movement will undoubtedly continue into the future as more groups and people, from all walks of life, join and support this growing social justice movement.