A Local Protest

Why go to a march when you can let the march come to you? I was eating lunch at home this afternoon when I started hearing chants of “Fuck the Police” getting louder outside the window. I went down to see what was going on, and it turned out to be a small protest march down Park Boulevard:

Park Boulevard Microprotest
I assume that these are students from Oakland High School, which is a few blocks up Park Boulevard. They must have been inspired by the rioting in downtown Oakland on Wednesday night, because they kicked a few cars whose drivers had the audacity to creep past them going the other way as they marched (there was plenty of room).

The large banner reads “STOP US BACKED ISRAELI MASSACRE IN GAZA / MASSIVE RESISTANCE NEEDED NOW!” and the anti-police chants alternated with “Free Palestine” chants — another thing these kids seem to have learned from their activist elders is how to cover their bases. I can’t say whether this was a pro-Palestinian march which expanded to include the anti-police message after last week’s shooting of an unarmed man at an Oakland train station, or whether this was an anti-police-brutality march which expanded to include the pro-Palestinian message. And I can’t say whether the marchers would even recognize that distinction.

Park Boulevard Microprotest
I followed the march until it got to Lake Merritt, when I turned toward home. As I walked home, I passed the girls in headscarves who had been bringing up the rear of the march (see the first photo above). They must have left the protest when it reached the Lake, although the marchers seemed to be heading toward City Hall.

The fatal shooting of Oscar Grant (who was unarmed, and lying face down on a train platform) was obviously a grievous injustice, and people have a right to be outraged. The fact is, however, that although the BART station happens to be located in Oakland, the officer was a member of BART’s police force, which has no connection to the Oakland Police Department or Oakland’s city government.

Smashing store windows and burning cars in downtown Oakland, and lashing out at Oakland’s mayor and police force, is a strange way to seek justice for this particular crime, but I can’t say I’m surprised after having seen the same phenomena during the Rodney King riots in Berkeley in the early 90’s — storekeepers on Telegraph and Durant Avenues obviously had nothing to do with the Rodney King case, but when simmering rage erupts into violence, you can’t expect it to follow any kind of strict logic. I’m just glad that no one seems to have been seriously hurt in this week’s protests, at least so far — this could be a tense weekend in the streets of Oakland.

7 Responses to “A Local Protest”

  1. ng says:

    NPR had a long essay this afternoon by an African-American resident of Oakland bemoaning the reactions to the shooting, which he also bemoaned, and contrasting the election night elation in Oakland with these latest disappointing occurrences in the city. He wanted to share the excitement of the election but hide from these latest events.

  2. dc says:

    Thanks — I just listened to what I think is the essay you mention (audio can be found here). The contrast between the joyous street celebrations here after Obama’s victory and the depressing street violence after this depressing police violence have been remarked on a lot in the past few days. This photo taken by an Oakland photographer on the night of the rioting is a propos.

  3. ng says:

    Thanks to you — I didn’t know he was one of the youth commentators. And that photo is dramatically sad.

  4. avoice says:

    There was something very odd about that shooting. It didn’t make sense. I have seen a couple of the videos posted that show it. Either it was an accident of some sort–I have discharged a weapon by mistake myself–or it was an execution. I don’t see why the weapon was drawn in the first place. I see some kind of voluntary manslaughter here but not murder. I wasn’t premeditated and it wasn’t even done in the heat of passion or excitement like a murder 2. Unless there’s something going on the videos don’t show, I can’t buy the taser story either, the one where the cop says he thought he was drawn his taser nd not his gun.

  5. dc says:

    Something very odd? That’s an understatement. It looks pretty clear to me from the video that it was some kind of horrible accident — the cop’s body language after the shot just doesn’t seem consistent with an intentional shooting (not to mention the fact that even a psychopathic, homicidal officer would probably not execute an unarmed man in front of a trainload of angry citizens with cell phone cameras).

    The cop hasn’t said he thought he drew his taser — so far that’s only been speculation. The only reason the taser theory makes some sense to me is that (as you say) he had no reason to draw his gun in the first place. Anyway, whether he meant to use his taser, or he didn’t realize how sensitive the triggers on Glocks are (another suggestion I’ve heard) or he just “lost it” and shot the guy intentionally in some kind of panic, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the first time that young officer has ever drawn his weapon, never mind actually discharged it. I think he’d only been on the force for two years, and I don’t think BART police have occasion to draw their weapons as often as SFPD or OPD might.

    Either way, the young guy is still dead.

  6. Eric says:

    Ah, humanity!

  7. jabel says:

    They better watch the Fuck the Police chant.Since NWA has a song of that name from the mid 80’s they might sue the protestors for unauthorised use of”Lyrics”Insert rolling eyes emoticon here.

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