News Column

Oakland: Protesters gather to oppose police brutality, support Ferguson

August 21, 2014

By Kristin J. Bender and Karina Ioffee, The Oakland Tribune

Aug. 21--OAKLAND -- More than 200 protesters rallied against police violence Wednesday afternoon, but were stymied in an attempt to march on Oakland police headquarters when they were stopped by a line of officers a block away from the building.

The protests Wednesday -- which started at Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Oakland main library, the African American History Museum and Jack London Square -- were held in solidarity with protests in Ferguson, Mo. where an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, 18, was shot at least six times by a white police officer on Aug. 9. In the wake of the shooting, police attempts to deal with angry protesters have come under nationwide scrutiny.

"I'm the mother of a 19-year-old black boy so it's a personal thing for me," said Oakland resident Richelle Scales, 43. "I'm out here to protest police brutality since black men have much more contact with police and that's directly tied to lack of economic opportunity, lack of job training and the schools-to-prison pipeline."

A crowd of more than 100 gathered at Ogawa Plaza around 5 p.m. Wednesday, with several speakers calling for an end to police violence before the group started marching toward Oakland police headquarters, chanting "Hands up, don't shoot!" Around 5:40 p.m., several of the groups coming from different locations were met by police lines, blocking them from getting closer to the building.

An impromptu rally broke at on Broadway at Seventh Street, with about 200 people watching performances by poets, singers and others speaking in support of the cause. Drummers played along as the crowd chanted, "Whose streets? Our streets!"

Erika Whitmore, 27, a mother of two, said she thought that more police should wear cameras on their uniforms, which would make them more accountable in the event of violence.

"I don't want my son to fear that if you wear a hoodie or your pants are too low, or if you get angry, you will be immediately profiled and shot," Whitmore said. "And that's what they are doing now. They are shooting to kill."

The crowd eventually returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza, where relatives who were shot and killed, either by police or in street crime incidents, spoke to the crowd.

"This is terrorism in America," said Cindy Williams, whose brother, Mario Romero, was shot and killed by Vallejo police in 2012. "It is important for us to stand up. When you see something, say something.

"They want you to be afraid. My brother is no longer here but i am fighting for everybody."

Oakland mayoral candidate Dan Siegel also spoke, saying: "We need to be in the streets right now.

"Ferguson, Missouri is a wake-up call for the United States, and it's a wake-up call for Oakland. What went down 10 days ago in Ferguson could happen anywhere."

Wednesday's protest came just a few days after another march against police violence had about 200 people moving through downtown, with a smaller group marching all the way up Telegraph Avenue into Berkeley. Two people were arrested during that march Friday night and an Oakland police officer was pepper-sprayed.

Another peaceful rally drew about 500 people to Frank Ogawa Plaza on Thursday, with numerous speakers challenging police violence.

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Source: Oakland Tribune (CA)

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