Anti-Police March Returns to Oakland, Garners Low Turnout

Protestors were few and far
between at the latest Occupy
Oakland protest.

Occupy Oakland aimed to march in full force last Friday night; however, fewer people showed up than were expected.

Last year several marches ended in the mass arrests of protesters as they fought with the police; the last march was held in July 2012.

Melvin Kelly, an organizer from the Occupy Oakland Tactical Action Committee hailed the return of the infamous march.

Kelly waited patiently as activists, many covering their faces with masks, began to trickle into Frank Ogawa Plaza. At its height, Kelly’s brigade numbered close to 40. By the end of the night 22 remained.

Kelly said he was going to film the event himself because he didn’t trust the way the media would portray it. While the marches have often turned violent he said the reason was because the police always hit them first.

Many of the activists told similar stories of having been beaten by the police or going to jail on false charges.

A man who goes by the name of “Common Terry” told The Pioneer the police chained him to a wall and beat him for making a female officer cry while she was filling out the paperwork for his arrest.

“But like, I take it really good. When you’re not that upset about it, you don’t get beaten as bad,” said Terry. “Don’t be upset about it; don’t be scared. Accept it; that’s the best way to go about it.”

Topics addressed included protecting the Earth, support for the activist collective Anonymous, police brutality, drone strikes, military interventions, and the hotly debated “stop and frisk” policy advocated by recently hired Oakland Police Department consultant Sgt. William Bratton.

Bratton has previously stated the policy is proven to reduce crime; Kelly thinks it could be potentially dangerous.

“The stop and frisk is just going to cause a riot in the city, cause all they’re going to do is kill another innocent black or brown person,” said Kelly. “That’s just the reality of it.”

The protesters marched up Telegraph through the monthly festival “First Friday.” Along the way, people cheered and joined in with the chanting; several people took to the streets and walked with the protesters as they continued through downtown.

The owner of a food tent, Jason, explained the origins of “First Friday”.

“It started as an art ball, they rented out these empty spaces and the artists would display their artwork, but then it expanded to something bigger, and they let everyone be a part of it so they shut down the streets and let anybody who wants to be a part of it set up tents,” said Jason.

Robert Cummins stood on the sidewalk and watched as they approached the festival. He said he approves of their message, but doesn’t like when previous marches became violent, causing property damage to small businesses.

“Peaceful protests are always good, I think they have a good message, but the violence has no part in it anymore,” Cummins said.

The protesters continued to march up and down Telegraph for over an hour and eventually ended at Northgate Ave and 24th Street. When they finally made it back to Frank Ogawa Plaza, the remaining activists sat down and expressed a sense of disappointment.

“I’ve got mixed feelings about this march,” said a man who goes by the name Pink Edge. “I personally had fun, however I feel that there was a large amount of hype behind this that did not deliver.”

He said the low turnout shows to the police that, in terms of “Stop and Frisk,” people aren’t as motivated to get out into the streets and protest controversial policies as they have been in the past.

Kelly said he was not happy with the low turnout, but stressed that there will be marches every month in coincidence with “First Friday.”

To cap off the night, a young woman who calls herself “Hippie” pulled out an American flag, held it upside down and set it ablaze; other activists cheered as she danced around the fire.

She said it was the second flag she had burned so far, the first being an Israeli flag during last year’s Gaza conflict.

“Holding it upside down, all that means is SOS, and right now we’re in trouble,” said Hippie. “We need help, we need a new government. There are too many people sleeping in the streets, there are too many people without jobs.”