Twenty-five protesters were arrested today after blocking the streets and chaining themselves to the Oakland Police Headquarters. The demonstrations were meant to call attention to the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown by policemen in New York and Missouri. One defiant protester climbed the flagpole in front of the police station and replaced the American flag with a banner which read “Black Lives Matter.”
The protest was one of many in the Bay Area that has followed in the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson, the white police officers who killed the two unarmed black men. Oakland Police estimate that there were around 100 people involved in today’s demonstration, which is a significantly smaller group than the 3,000 people that marched the streets of Oakland this Saturday. After the crowd dispersed and the march seemed to be over, there were reports of vandalism throughout downtown and at least forty-five people were arrested on Saturday for the crimes of vandalism, resisting arrest and failure to disperse.
Demonstrations earlier this month were more volatile. On Tuesday, December 9, a large group of protesters began to throw rocks and glass bottles at California Highway Patrolmen and the officers responded by firing rubber bullets at the crowd. Some people accused law enforcement of firing tear gas into the crowd but these accusations are not confirmed.
Today’s demonstration might have been smaller and more peaceful, but it was arguably more effective than the marches of late. Protesters chained shut four of the doors of the Oakland Police Headquarters and then chained themselves to the doors. These were the main entrances to the station and their closure hampered the policemen’s ability to do their jobs. It took the Oakland Police over four hours to clear the blockade—they eventually had to remove the chains with bolt-cutters—and they arrested protesters on the charges of obstructing a public safety building and delaying a police officer.
Demonstrators also chained themselves to one another in order to block the intersection of Broadway and 7th street and the freeway ramp to Interstate 880 at Broadway. The black tubes connected to their arms read, “Silence is Violence”. The group of protesters at these locations included people of diverse races and backgrounds. Apparently it is not just the black community that feels that the judicial system has failed the American people.
The fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the chokehold which killed Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, have outraged a significant portion of the American public. Due to the fact that the two police officers who killed these men were able to avoid indictment by the supreme court, people across the country are starting to view all policemen as corrupt and authoritarian enemies of the common man. This puts members of law enforcement in a tough situation. They must maintain order but using violence to do so will only serve to further tarnish their reputation as civil servants. Twenty-five protesters that blockaded the Oakland Police Headquarters today may have gone to jail, but their arrests might just inspire others to join the next demonstration.
By Dac Collins
Photo by freeside510 – Flickr License