“The police’s duty is to protect and serve, and if you feel like they’re not doing that, then you need to speak up,” Berkeley High School senior Armani Turner-Jenkins told his teammates in a locker room meeting.
He’s among the young people around the country turning what was a national controversy started by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who hasn’t been standing during the national anthem to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police officers — into their own local protests.
“All of us were thinking about it soon as we saw Kaepernick do it one day,” team captain Jaden Lewis told VICE News correspondent Jay Caspian Kang. “We’re like, ‘Let’s stand up with these other teams, with these other players. Let’s take it serious.’”
Protests against racism are not new to Berkeley students. Last year, a student left a threatening message on a computer in the school’s library, prompting more than half of the student body to walk out of class. In 2014, a noose was left to hang on a tree on campus.
“That’s my history that you’re kind of just disrespecting and putting it out there, and it’s not funny,” team captain Brandon Bailey said.
The Berkeley football team, inspired by Kaepernick and with the support of their coach, decided to take action in the form of a protest.
“We’re kneeling down to stand up for black oppression and police brutality, and with us locking arms it shows that we’re doing it as a team and we’re united in what we’re doing,” Bailey said.
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