Hayward Councilmember Francisco Zermeño apologized for diminishing the Black Lives Matter movement by previously using derivatives of the phrase, such as Latino Lives Matter and Police Lives Matter.
The statement was made through social media accounts connected with Zermeño's re-election campaign and after a large Black Lives Matter rally in front of Hayward City Hall on June 3 in which speakers asserted council members have done little to end police brutality in Hayward.
Zermeño posted a statement on Instagram last Friday declaring support for Black Lives Matter, but the apology came after the Hayward Collective, a local social-activist group that has grown to prominence in the city, urged Zermeño to apologize for saying "Police Lives Matter" and "Latino Lives Matter."
"About seven months ago, I made some statements I regret," Zermeño wrote. "I apologize for the use of 'Latino Lives Matter' and 'Police Lives Matter' and for taking away from the #BLM movement. That was never my intention and I appreciate those that have taken the time to discuss the harm of those statements. I understand that all lives can't matter until Black lives matter first. My apologies for having disrespected the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, one that I support 100 percent. Thank you."
The apology comes at a time when a restless public is actively reevaluating policing in America and its extension of white supremacy over African Americans.
Zermeño's original comments voicing support for law enforcement came amid a string of Hayward City Council meetings, beginning in early 2019, in which police-accountability activists and the family of a man fatally shot by Hayward Police alternately pleaded for help from city officials and shouted them down with harsh words. The commotion caused several meetings to briefly pause for recess and another meeting to move behind closed doors.
During one such heated meeting in February 2019, Zermeño left his seat on the dais during the council proceedings and walked toward two Hayward police officers who were standing against a wall, shook their hands and returned to his seat in what appeared to be a public show of support.
Zermeño is among three Hayward councilmembers seeking re-election this November in a race for four at-large seats. Along with Zermeño, Councilmembers Elisa Márquez and Mark Salínas are seeking re-election. Councilmember Al Mendall announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.
A crowded field is shaping up. As of this week, nine candidates have filed their intent to run in November, making Zermeño's and the other incumbent's re-elections far from assured. Zermeño was first elected in 2008, making him the second-longest-serving Hayward councilmember behind Mayor Barbara Halliday.
Zermeño's campaign move appears to be part of a concerted effort to move to the more progressive side of the burgeoning field of candidates. In addition to his declaration of support for Black Lives Matter this week, Zermeño voted last February to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. He later maintained his support for the minimum-wage acceleration when the majority of the council voted in April to postpone the raise for workers until next January due to the economic downturn caused by Covid-19.