Protests in Oakland for George Floyd
15,000 people of all ages gather in peaceful protests of unjust city policies.
By Phillip | 6/3/20
On Monday, 15,000 protestors gathered at Oakland Technical High School in a “George Floyd Solidarity March.” The march was explicitly supposed to be peaceful, in order to combat the narrative of destructive protests, and social distancing was encouraged. After a successful march that drew people of all ages with no violence (the protesters explicitly avoided the police building in favor of Frank Ogawa plaza), police arrested 80 protesters and used force as the 8 p.m. curfew approached.
The killing of George Floyd was the main thing being protested, but Oakland’s history with law enforcement has also been fraught. In 2009, BART police officers kneed Oscar Grant, a black man, to the ground and then executed him via a shot to his back. Videos taken by other passengers ignited protests in the Bay Area, although his killing was five years before the Black Lives Matter movement took police brutality onto the national stage. The officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months in jail before being released on parole.
We shouldn’t assume that the Bay Area has much more just policing policies than the rest of the country. In 2012, Oakland nearly adopted the racist stop and frisk policy that Michael Bloomberg was criticized for during his time in New York. From 2013-2019, the Oakland Police Department killed nine men, seven of whom were black. Oakland’s 2015-2017 budget added 40 new police officers, four crime analysts/technicians, and money for crime fighting tools and community policing. In addition, over the last four years, Oakland police have gone over their overtime budget by $13.7 million per year. Council President Rebecca Kaplan said, “there may be inappropriate self dealing going on in terms of senior police officials who are in charge of designating overtime”(KRON).
By focusing on policies close to home, we can make advances much more easily than on a national level and differences in the lives of our neighbors. Students are demanding changes such as civilian oversight, removing military equipment, cutting funding, prohibiting the rehiring of officers who murder innocents, ending cash-money bail, and removing all police from schools. Although we discussed in a recent article how many of the current reforms are not working, demilitarizing the police and adding more public accountability are solutions that may work. Cash-money bail is a separate issue from police brutality, but still important: nearly 500,000 unconvicted people are in jail because they can’t afford to pay bail.
Just this March, the Oakland Unified School District voted to keep police in schools (which costs $2 million) and has led to 73% of kids arrested being black while only making up 26% of the student population. There is no evidence that a police presence makes schools safer, while it increases the percentage of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests.
The Bay Area has mirrored many protests across the country: a majority of peaceful protesters, some rioters, some looters, and police using tear gas and rubber bullets. Arrests are growing, mostly for violating curfew. Despite growing opposition, people are still excited and motivated to fight and protest for George Floyd.