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City council members sit during national anthem

Kaplan addressed refusing to stand for the national anthem. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Kaplan addressed refusing to stand for the national anthem. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

At an Oakland City Council meeting last week, council members discussed their participation in refusing to stand for the national anthem as a silent protest to events of racial injustice in the United States.

The topic of refusing to stand for the national anthem as a protest to racism and police brutality was prevalent during the city council meeting.  While addressing issues in the city, members of the council voiced their reasoning behind choosing not to stand.

Before the commencement of the City Council meeting, Council members Desley Brooks and Rebecca Kaplan both spoke about their choice to refrain from standing while the national anthem played. They mentioned the police shooting of Terence Crutcher and of athlete Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand.

Brooks, an Oakland City council member and the vice mayor of Oakland, spoke on racism and police brutality in this country. She said that Kaepernick sitting during the national anthem is representational of the freedoms we have as citizens of this country.

“He has the absolute right to the freedom of expression. If we [understood] what this country is about, we would not get upset over somebody exercising their constitutional rights,” Brooks said.

Brooks hopes that individuals will ask about the issues that are being protested and not about the media spotlight on Kaepernick protesting. She does not want the media to distract from the conversation citizens need to have.

The topic of racial discrimination is being well-discussed on college campuses by many students. According to Sophomore Natalia Sandoval, silently protesting by refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or national anthem are powerful actions. She thinks that Kaepernick’s act is simply freedom of speech.

“On a constitutional stance, I think what he did was just,” Sandoval said. “I hope that more influential individuals will follow in Kaepernick’s footsteps.”

Mills community volunteer and Board of Trustees member Kathleen Burke notes that there has been some change and progress in the country. According to Burke, the idea that someone chooses whether or not to stand is self-choice.

“The way he is protesting is clear and expressive,” Burke said. “However, it has brought out violence to the extent of people reading it as disrespectful to the military; these kind of reactions are what bother me.”

Kaepernick has received extensive media attention for his refusal to stand. As stated by ethnic studies Professor Nikole Wilson Ripson, many individuals are paying attention to what he is doing rather than asking why he is doing it. She sees his action as an act of patriotism since it raises questions about what we are doing wrong and how we can do better as a country.

“This silent protest is directed in an area in which our country can do better; asking that of it is true patriotism,” Ripson said.