Mercedians from all walks of life made their way to Courthouse Park last Saturday to take part in a community gathering and forum at the steps of the Historical Courthouse Museum.
The event was led by UC Merced Assistant Professor Dr. Whitney Pirtle, and it brought together a number of speakers who aimed to spark conversations about the direction of Merced in the future. Among the local organizations represented at the meeting were the NAACP, Building Healthy Communities, We’Ced, Merced Black Alliance, Merced People of Color, Leadership Council for Justice & Accountability, Journey for Justice, Brown Berets, Democratic Socialists of Merced, 99 Rootz, and the Central Valley Mutual Aid Collective.
Speakers throughout the event spoke about their concerns and the ideal directions they consider will lead to a better Merced. Dr. Pirtle summarized the gathering’s overarching goals, explaining that the strategy to “defund police departments” allows for local funds to be reapportioned to various types of programing and services throughout the community that would help residents by giving them additional options of support in lieu of armed officers become involved in a situation.
“We want that money to be invested in black and brown communities,” Dr. Pirtle said. “Specifically in Merced, we want that money in south Merced. We want to hold our politicians accountable. If they are not listening to us, hearing from us, or acting on behalf of us, we will call for their resignation.”
At the conclusion of the event, participants made their way from Courthouse Park to downtown Merced with a large banner emblazoned with the words “Black Lives Matter.” The banner eventually made its way up a brick facade of a building near Bob Hart Square. As the banner went up there was enthusiastic cheering and chanting from those who had gathered for the event. The marchers then made their way back to Courthouse Park.