Local Protests Draw in Thousands of Participants

Ania Keenan, Staff Writer

What started out as a small gathering grew overnight into a thousand-person protest and it all started with a small Orinda family. After the killing of George Floyd, Tanya Pretlow’s husband Neal Pretlow began standing on the street corner outside of the Orinda Bevmo with a sign that read, “Black Lives Matter, I Live Here”. Despite only standing there a few minutes a day, Neal Pretlow began to experience harassment from people walking on the street and driving by. Tanya Pretlow was determined to change that. 

Tanya sent out the details for a Black Lives Matter protest in Orinda that would start at Bevmo and lead to the Orinda Library where a few community members would speak. The march started out small with a few dozen people committing and grew in a few hours to a few hundred people committing to attend. Soon the estimated attendance had ballooned to over 400. On the day of the march, nearly 1,120 people showed up to protest. 

After marching to the Orinda Library both Tanya and Neal stood up to speak to the crowd. Tanya shared her story of leaving Russia for America after college and her shock at the mass inequality in the treatment of black people. “I came here thinking it was safe, I came here with fresh eyes and what I saw was the greatest injustice I’ve ever seen,” Tanya said. 

Both Tanya and Neal expressed their concern about their decision to move back to Orinda after the racial profiling that Neal had experienced growing up.“There were incidents so fo racial profiling; being followed by police and pulled over for no reason,” Neal said. 

Neal expressed how grateful he was for the great education and beautiful environment that he got to experience growing up in Orinda, but was honest about the hesitation that he felt about raising his son in a town whereas a black man, he had experienced profiling from the police force. 

Following Neal was the voice of the Mayor of Orinda, Darlene Gee. “We want to be a community that Tanya, Dean, and Miles can be proud of,” Gee said. Her statements were met with chants of “eight can’t wait” by a majority of the crowd, a slogan used to advocate for eight reforms to the police department that have been shown to dramatically decrease the likely hood of fatal force or racial profiling. 

Next, seniors from Campolindo and Miramonte High School took the stand to advocate for a more forceful response from school administration over incidents of hate and racism as well as a more diverse curriculum.  

“It is so great to be a part of the community again but we can’t stop here,” Tanya said to wrap up the demonstration.

Miramonte rising junior Thomas Quinnild attended the rally with his family.“I believe that silence is violence and that just posting on Instagram isn’t enough to support our black community. We all need to get out, and amplify black voices by attending protests, signing petitions, and educating ourselves,” Quinnild said.