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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.