In a speech praised by his colleagues for its eloquence, Dublin Councilmember Shawn Kumagai summed up what the nation and its politicians should do right now: talk about the oppression of African Americans, gay people and other repressed minorities until there is a true end to victimization of all suffering people.
Kumagai made his remarks at the June 2 Dublin City Council meeting, just one day after four of the five city council members joined a planned, nonviolent demonstration at Emerald Glen Park late in the morning.
Then, in an impromptu action, a few hundred of them marched to the intersection of Dublin Boulevard and Dougherty Road, where they knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in a memorial to George Floyd, an African American man who lost his life when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for that same amount of time.
Mayor David Haubert noted at the council meeting that he and others on the council violated the shelter-in-place order with the march, since the council did not grant a permit for it. He added that county health officials may not like the Dublin council’s involvement in the protests, as the large gathering does not comply with the 6 feet of required social distance to slow the spread the coronavirus.
“But it was worth every bit of it, in my opinion,” said Haubert.
Josey added that some actions are worth risks. She reported the case rate of coronavirus in Dublin to be “pretty stable, until 500 of us and our closest friends got together at an intersection.”
“There were reasons for us to have been together yesterday,” Josey said, referring to the June 1 protest, “but I think we’ll see our case rates go up, in my opinion.”
Josey told a reporter via email that she and her family will get tested only if she or other family members have symptoms.
Kumagai tied recent national demonstrations set off by Floyd’s death to the Stonewall Riots in 1969 in New York, when gay people fought back against aggressive police. The riots were the culmination of anger in the 1960s, “when it was illegal to be gay,” said Kumagai.
Two transgender women of color started the resistance by throwing a brick to defend a black trans individual, said Kumagai.
“Gay Pride was born of protest,” Kumagai continued. “I’m aware of the role of peaceful, and sometimes not so peaceful assemblies, as happened so much in civil rights history. Protesting is not the problem. The protest is the symptom of a deeper sickness, which is injustice.”
Kumagai stated discrimination and its destructive actions intersect in race, gender and sexual preference in the struggle for equal protection under the law.
“That’s why I am so proud we will raise the Philadelphia (gay rights rainbow) flag this year, and thank you Vice Mayor (Arun) Goel for the suggestion,” Kumagai said. “The Philadelphia flag adds black and brown stripes to show that black and brown people should be included, too.”
Kumagai added that he wants Dublin to do more to make a positive impact in meaningful ways. He will bring a resolution to the council to support the celebration of Juneteenth, on June 19, which is a holiday celebrating the day President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law on Jan. 1. 1863. The news didn’t reach Texas, the western-most state in the Confederacy, until it was officially announced by a Union Army officer on June 19, 1865.
“Thank you for everything you do in sharing your opinions and views, which we might not get otherwise,” Goel said to Kumagai. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”