Berkeley / East Bay
Gray Panthers Newsletter
March 2015

6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609

Tel: (510)595-9696

The March membership meeting will be on
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 1:30pm
at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, Berkeley.
Hear Attorney Jim Chanin on
The First Amendment and Women's Rights
All Welcome. Wheelchair accessible.

The Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers will hear Jim Chanin , a nationally prominent attorney who specializes in Civil Rights, Police Misconduct, Personal Injury and Business Litigation. Jim interest in police misconduct began over thirty-five years ago when he was part of a group that successfully established a Police Review Commission (PRC) for the City of Berkeley. In March this year he went to Selma, AL to be in the 50th anniversary the civil rights march, and will tell of his experience. Jim has been a member of the Alameda County Human Relations Commission and was a member of the City of Berkeley/University of California Committee that met regarding Berkeley’s People’s Park from 1990 to 1994.

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Board Meeting: March 11, 2015 2:00pm At Niebyl-Proctor Library

Page 2

Become a member of Gray Panthers!

Dues: $35/year ($15 low income)
Send a check with your name and mailing address to Gray Panthers of the East Bay, 6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609.
NOTE -- Traffic Tickets can also be worked off by volunteer work for Gray Panthers

Living Graveyard

Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00 pm.
date subject to change –– check
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
People lie down on the city sidewalk in front of the Federal Building, covered with sheets to represent the dead. The names of some of the Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some of the Iraqi dead are read during the event. A gong is sounded after each name.
Please bring a white sheet. A pad to lie on is recommended.
Info: Ecumenical Peace Institute, (510)990-0374.

Ying Lee Honored

To recognize the years of work by Ying Lee, the California State Assembly honored her on March 9 as a Woman of the Year for Assembly District 15, represented by Democrat Tony Thurmond of Richmond.

Tax the Rich Rally


We meet every Monday 5-6 pm at the top of Solano Ave in Berkeley to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We hold signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations.” Cars passing by honk in support. Pedestrians take leaflets.

The signs and leaflets present information about the impact of tax inequities in our society, and how we must work together to bring about essential changes so that the rich and big corporations pay their fair share.

Monthly Peace Rally

Every 3rd Friday, Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally, at Acton and University in Berkeley. Next rally will be on Friday March 20, 2-3 pm. Come sing, wave signs, listen to approving honks. For info, Call Fran Rachel at 841-4143

Report on the February Membership Meeting

The February 2015 Gray Panther general membership meeting was held on January 28 at North Berkeley Senior Center. About 20 people were in the audience. Moni Law spoke on Black History, Civil Rights and the Black Lives protests A summary report on the talk begins on the next page.

Page 3

Steve Geller's Summary Report on Moni Law's Talk

The speaker for the February 2015 general membership meeting of the East Bay Gray Panthers was Moni Law, an activist woman with a law degree, who lives in Berkeley and is frequently seen at city council meetings. She is on the steering committee for the movement to save the Berkeley Post Office Building and was MC at a recent meeting of that movement, reporting on the activities of supporting lawyers.

Her “day job” is with City of Berkeley, on the staff of the Rent Stabilization Board.

She assured us that at our meeting, she was speaking for herself, wearing her “personal hat.”

Her talk was about Black history, civil rights and the recent “Black Lives Matter” protests.

Her Early Life and Education

Moni Law has a personal history that intersects with much of Black history and Civil Rights. She was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1960, one of 4 children. Both her parents had been postal workers.

She personally experienced race discrimination in the Jim Crow South. Her parents both had college degrees but found it difficult to get good jobs in Alabama. The family moved to southern California, where her mother eventually retired from a career in “corrections” as a prison warden.

Moni remembers Jim Crow discrimination in interstate commerce -- not being able to get served at travelers’ restaurants. She encountered “white” and “colored” rest rooms. One time, the family went into a “white” rest room, because it was the only place they could get some water. A truck full of rednecks pulled up during this time; her father called out “run!” and they all got out of there.

Moni grew up in Claremont, CA. She was active in highschool politics, at one point getting elected “Pep Commissioner”. She attended UC Berkeley, graduating in 1982, and got her law degree from UCSF in 1984.

Her law practice was mainly public interest: age discrimination, wrongful termination etc. She lived in Seattle for 10 years, during which she did some tribal law for the Yakima Nation. She returned to Berkeley four years ago; she now no longer actively practices law.

Page 4

Freedom March and Free Speech

Moni asked for a show of hands from people who had been to the 1963 March on Washington and the 1964 Free Speech demonstrations on Sproul Plaza. A few of the Panthers raised their hands. She asked how many in the audience had seen the “Selma” movie; many had. Moni herself had seen it five times.

So where are we today?

Moni said she had talked with some of today’s Cal Berkeley students coming out of a class. They said things like “I want to get an A, so I can get a nice job and be rich.”

Some said that their parents had been concerned about “those Black thugs” who were doing the protests. Some people have such entrenched attitudes. They think all Blacks are criminals and all residents of Berkeley are dangerous radicals.

Moni suggested that we may be at a crossroads in time. There is hope for restorative justice, a cultural shift. Women may get treated better. There will be less foolishness like calling Michelle Obama “a man in women’s clothing.” She showed us a picture of her 23-year-old son, framed in a magazine cover, over an image of Obama. The title was “Matthew Law-Phipps, our next president.”

Black Lives Matter

She told some stories about her own participation in the recent Black lives protests. To remind people that a Black person is being killed every 28 hours in the US, some Cal students took over the Golden Bear Café on campus, playing music. The occupation lasted four and a half hours -- the time interval during which Michael Brown’s body had been left unattended in the street in Ferguson after he was shot. The Daily Cal was at the Golden Bear event, but no other press. Most of the press attention was concentrated on the protestors in downtown Berkeley and Oakland. Most of the vandalism was being done by the “Black Bloc” – mostly white thugs who dress in Black. She expressed some annoyance that so many white people engaged with the protests have co-opted the act-up aspects of Black protest; they shout “F- the police.” Claims that protesters were blocking emergency vehicles were false, she said; the crowds always opened up to let them pass.

Page 5

Black Brunch

Moni then told us about “Black Brunch.” These are special protests intended to disrupt restaurant dining and people shopping in malls. They’re happening in many places in the country, including New York and Oakland Jack London Square. Moni saw one Black Brunch action on Berkeley’s Fourth Street, during which groups of students from Cal and other colleges invaded places such as the Apple store, Bette’s Oceanview Diner and Spenger’s Restaurant, which are hangouts mostly for white people. The brief disruptions were intended to raise consciousness about Black Lives. She said that most people the group encountered seemed supportive of the Black Brunch action. As they strolled through the restaurants and shops, the group sang a song, which went something like: “Sojourner Truth (Harriet Tubman etc.) was a Freedom Fighter … which side are you on?”

Moni is currently involved with Berkeley’s Police Review Commission, which is looking into the incident when Berkeley Police used tear gas and flash grenades to disperse protesters on Telegraph Avenue.

During one march on University Avenue, Moni had been trying to keep the crowd under control. Somebody challenged her for “doing the job of the Police.” She had pointed out that the police were just up the street, not doing much about the breaking of windows at Radio Shack. She thought that Berkeley, of all places, should be able to do a better job of crowd control.

The Police Review commissioners are asking for more people to file complaints about their treatment during Berkeley protests.

During the question & answer period, someone asked if Berkeley is hiring more police. She said yes, and police are getting more training for “cultural competency.”

When Moni asked about excessive traffic stops (“driving while Black”) several (white) people in the audience reported having been pulled over for no apparent reason (their age?). The police in Berkeley, as elsewhere, definitely tend to profile people based on their appearance. Blacks, teenagers and “transients” get special attention.

Anyone who wants to become an "ally" of the NAACP
should contact the Berkeley Branch: PO BOX 613 Berkeley, CA 94701
Phone: 510-845-7416 -- or go online at

An expanded version of this report, with links to other websites, is available online at