Hayward: Zermeño apologizes for previously saying ‘Police Lives Matter’

Hayward Councilmember Francisco Zermeno telling police accountability activists that their disruptions during a council meeting in February 2019 was hindering the dialogue that night between city officials and the public.

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 a number of councilmembers 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. 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 appreciate those that have taken the time to discuss the harm of those statements,” Zermeño wrote.

“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.

The original comments by Zermeño voicing support for law enforcement came amid a string of Hayward City Council meetings since the beginning of 2019 when 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. Several meetings briefly paused for recess and another forced the council to move its meeting behind closed doors and without the public.

During one such heated meeting in February 2019, Zermeño left his seat on the dais and walked toward two Hayward Police Officers who were standing against a wall, shook their hands during the council proceedings, and returned to his seat in what appeared to be a public show of support for police.

Zermeño is among three Hayward councilmembers who are 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 an intent to run in November, making Zermeño’s and the other incumbent’s re-election far from assured. Zermeño was first elected in 2008, making him the second-longest-serving Hayward councilmember behind Mayor Barbara Halliday

The move by Zermeño’s campaign 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.