East Palo Altans and supporters were urged to immediately stop buying things in Palo Alto to protest years of alleged 'racial profiling' of blacks by Palo Alto police.
Glenda Savage, one of the organizers of the City Hall-to-City Hall march this afternoon, called for the economic boycott when speaking to more than 150 persons gathered in Palo Alto's Civic Center Plaza at the end of the march.
Savage one of several speakers this afternoon.
Goro Mitchell, a member of the East Palo Alto Planning Commission and other city groups, and a recent candidate for City Council, said the pattern of racial traffic stops is statistically clear.
He said 56 percent of all traffic stops for "vehicular failure" -- such as tail or brake lights not working -- are for cars driven by African Americans or Latinos.
"We want Palo Alto to know that we will not stop until we receive the dignity and civil rights the Constitution gives us," Mitchell said.
Palo Alto leaders who attended the rally , including Mayor Larry Klein, Vice Mayor Peter Drekmeier and Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, expressed reservations about the boycott idea.
"It would be too bad for Palo Alto businesses to pay for someone else's mistake," Kishimoto said. "We should put our energy toward correcting the problem (of racial profiling). I understand that emotional reaction, but I would ask them to reconsider."
Those participating in the march took a "pledge of non-violence" shortly after 2 p.m. today and headed toward Palo Alto's City Hall from East Palo Alto's City Hall.
The march was to protest what East Palo Alto Mayor Pat Foster said was at least 30 years -- some residents have reported more than 40 years, she said -- of what is today called "racial profiling" by Palo Alto police officers.
"It's been much too long," Foster told the crowd at the East Palo Alto City Hall.
"If we keep up the pressure, I'm sure it will change," she said.
City Council member and former Mayor Ruben Abrica also spoke.
While smaller than the 500-plus persons organizers expected, the crowd was quietly determined to make a point.
A number of young persons wore, "Yes, we can!" T-shirts, reminiscent of the recent Barak Obama campaign's reference to change.
Some young persons wore T-shirts with the question, "Am I a suspect?"
The march was organized after Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson said -- during a meeting last Thursday to quell citizen concerns about recent strong-arm robberies and burglaries -- that officers have been instructed to make "consensual contact" with persons matching descriptions of robbers, including race.
Ten of 16 strong-arm men committing robberies were identified as African American or "dark-skinned," while victims were unable to give any description in most other robberies.
Johnson later gave a television interview in which she left out the qualifier about other aspects of description. She has since repeatedly apologized for her "misspoken" words, and emphasized that she has spent decades professionally advocating non-discriminatory treatment on the part of officers.
Today's march focused less on Johnson's words than on a decades-long perception on the part of minority residents of East Palo Alto and other communities, including Palo Alto, of being singled out based on race or ethic appearance for special police attention.
The frustration of Palo Alto residents has been rising due to the high number of home burglaries and a spike in strong-arm robberies, often targeting women walking alone. One man suffered a broken shoulder when he was hit by an alumninum baseball bat in the pedestrian tunnal at the downtown Palo Alto Caltrain station in a late-moring attack and robbery.
Several older women have been knocked to the grond in purse-snatch robberies in central and south Palo Alto.