Aidan Hill poses with Henry the Bear at Games of Berkeley which held a special Game Night Against Hate event as part of the inaugural United Against Hate Week. Photo: Julie Chang

Update, Saturday Nov. 17: The film screening and band at Ashkenaz that was scheduled for tonight has been canceled due to the poor air quality. 

Original story: More than 50 people crowded into the back room of Games of Berkeley on Durant Avenue Thursday night to play “cooperation” board games like “Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War” and “Pandemic.”

At one table, financial analyst Marshall Krock teamed up with Aidan Hill — who recently ran for, but did not win, Berkeley City Council District 7 — and Cal students Dylan Miars and Xingzhi Wang for a round of “Eldritch Horror.”

“We’re trying to save the world,” said Krock.

Krock was referring to the game, but the occasion, Game Night Against Hate, did have a lofty aim. The event was held as part of United Against Hate Week, a first-of-its-kind week of activism, running Nov. 11-18, that offered a long list of events in 19 cities across the Bay Area — ranging from a walkout at the College of Marin to a poetry slam in Castro Valley.

The week, organized by Oakland-based nonprofit Not in Our Town, grew out of Berkeley’s 2017 ‘Berkeley Stands United Against Hate’ poster campaign. Responding to that year’s violent protests in downtown Berkeley, Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s office printed and distributed more than 20,000 United Against Hate posters to residents and local businesses. Oakland and other cities followed suit.

“My office felt like something needed to be done, something that our entire community could embrace,” Arreguín said at a press conference to launch the new initiative in September. “The community ‘Stands United Against Hate’ posters were born, and the rest is history.”

The planning for United Against Hate Week began when Patrice O’Neill, founder and director of Not in Our Town, an organization dedicated to stopping hate and bullying in communities and schools, reached out to Arreguín’s office and other cities that had participated in the poster campaign.

“It was a tremendous campaign,” O’Neill said. It created “a visible spine of resistance” against hate.

O’Neill formed a committee of representatives from participating cities and, in May of this year, it came up with the idea to hold an annual Bay Area United Against Hate week.

Berkeley began the week with a kick-off event Sunday at Civic Center Park, where pro-Trump and anti-Trump groups clashed several times in 2017. At Sunday’s event, the group hosted speeches, music, and other festivities.

“We wanted to claim that space back for peace and anti-hate,” said senior advisor to Mayor Arreguín Jacquelyn McCormick, who came up with the idea for Berkeley’s poster campaign.

O’Neill said the United Against Hate Week planning committee chose to hold the week after the midterm election to keep it “beyond electoral politics.” The organization wanted to keep the focus on bringing people together with “one voice about how to stand up to hate,” she said.

The events in Berkeley this week included a film screening, bystander training for people who witness hate speech or acts, and a seminar on compassionate communication, along with last night’s game night.

Wednesday, people gathered at UC Berkeley to watch Waking in Oak Creek, a documentary about a 2012 shooting where a gunman stormed a Sikh temple and killed six people. The screening was part of United Against Hate Week. Photo: Julie Chang
Moe’s Books is hosting a letter writing campaign on Friday: visitors are encouraged to drop off their letters addressed to newly elected officials urging them to “stop the words of hate.” Photo: Julie Chang

At the screening of the film Waking in Oak Creek on the UC Berkeley campus Wednesday night, local resident and psychotherapist Rosemary Ehat said she attended because, at age 73, she’s “never seen anything like what’s going on now.” She said she blamed the “climate of hatred” on President Trump.

Games Night Against Hate, which ran from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday, drew a bigger crowd than Games of Berkeley usually attracts for its free Thursday game nights. Manager and owner Erik Bigglestone said he was not surprised. United Against Hate Week “aligns with Berkeley’s values,” he said.

The shop also offered free drinks, and five Berkeley restaurants — Abe’s Pizza, Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, Sliver, Super Duper Burgers and Tacos Sinaloa — delivered free food every hour at the top of the hour.

Across town in its Southwest Berkeley office, the League of Women Voters held a “Living Room Conversation,” a small, structured conversation about how to engage with family on politics during the holidays.

Local league president Adena Ishii said the organization tried to “bring in people with different opinions” to connect with one another. About a dozen people attended.

All day today, Friday, Moe’s Books on Telegraph is holding a letter writing campaign in honor of United Against Hate Week. Anyone is invited to drop off letters addressed to newly elected officials — at local, state or national level — and urge them to “stop the words of hate.” For anyone without a letter of their own, Moe’s is providing sample letters to fill out, as well as free stamps.

Moe’s Books owner Doris Moskowitz, said she came up with the idea of hosting a letter writing campaign when she herself began drafting and sending “love letters” to her locally elected officials a couple of years back. Back then, she mailed letters to politicians she was excited about, including Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders.

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“All you need to do is give me the name and I’ll find the address and mail it for you,” said Moskowitz.

Moe’s will stay open an hour later than its normal business hours today — until 11 pm.

The FBI reported this week that hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years. Berkeley reported a 77% increase in hate crimes last year, with 23 reports compared with 13 in 2016. This was largely due to the violent clashes between far-right groups and antifa. Across the countty, the FBI said that law enforcement reported 7,175 hate crimes to Uniform Crime Reporting in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016.

And that’s “just the tip of the iceberg,” said O’Neill. “Those are reported hate crimes. We can’t even think that there were only 7,000 hate crimes last year.”

Julie Chang is a student reporter at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Tweet her at @BayAreaJulie

Julie Chang is a multimedia journalist based in San Francisco. Her reporting interests include politics, culture and anything science-y. She’s currently honing her reporting skills at UC Berkeley’s...