Piedmont to fly Black Lives Matter flag, council to review policies for discrimination

The Piedmont City Council voted unanimously at its virtual meeting Monday night to fly a Black Lives Matter flag in place of the city flag for the entire month of August.

The action by the affluent East Bay community is intended to show support for racial equity. The resolution also includes plans to do a complete review of Piedmont's ordinances and policies and look for areas to promote more social justice.

The Black Lives Matter flag will be flown with the U.S. and California flags at the corner of Vista and Highland Avenues in the heart of Piedmont.

The five council members heard public comment from more than half a dozen residents, all urging them to adopt the measure.

"I want to be proud of living in Piedmont. I want to be able to tell my kids we were on the right side of history," said Diana Lee, co-founder of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign.

"I am African American and I appreciate that you are considering this very important first step," said Joyce Hicks, who identified herself as a longtime Piedmont resident.

The resolution also includes statements rejecting racism and an apology for racial discrimination in Piedmont's history.

Councilmember Tim Rood noted that Piedmont had a history of racist real estate policies and discrimination.

"The history of Piemont's first black residents, Sidney and Thelma Dearing, and their two children who were driven from their homes in Piedmont in 1924," said Rood, who added that the city should erect a monument to the Dearing family.

The resolution also calls for a complete review of policies and ordinances for any discrimination or negative stereotyping.

Census data shows that more than 70% of Piedmont's residents are white less than 2% are Black.

"I always am cognizant of the lack of diversity in many of our institutions here in town. This is a very important step. I look forward to reviewing policies," said Teddy Gray King, a Piedmont City Council member.

After a brief discussion, the council voted 5-0 to pass the resolution.

Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers said he supports the council's action.

"We need to be comfortable, being uncomfortable in this country right now with a lot of these discussions," said Bowers, who said he already took action to ban chokeholds after George Floyd's death.

"But beyond that, I think we're looking from top to bottom how we do policing," said Bowers who says 15% of Piedmont police officers are Black, about 57% are white, and 20% Latinx.

City administrator Sara Lillevand says staff will begin with an internal review of all city policies.

"Really critically examine all of our existing policies, procedures, all the systems that we have in place, said Lillevand, "There would certainly be opportunity and desire for robust community engagement in this important work."

City officials say they plan to raise the flag as soon as the design and order are finalized.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@foxtv.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana

Jana Katsuyama 

KTVU Fox 2 News Reporter


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