Several thousand people gathered at Millions March Oakland on December 13 to protest the killings of unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Protesters critique mainstream media’s focus on vandalism and looting instead of Oakland Police Department’s violent history.
JULIA MULDAVIN, PRODUCER, OAKLAND, CA: Several thousand stood in solidarity for Black Lives Matter and Oakland’s Millions March on December 13, many wearing masks with the haunting last words of Eric Garner, “I Can’t Breathe.”
CHINASA OZONSI, LEAD ORGANIZER FOR MILLIONS MARCH OAKLAND: The main difference of this protest is that it’s family-oriented and community-oriented. And our agenda is peace. We are going to magnify the inhumanity and the evil of the police state by displaying our naked humanity for the world to see.
MULDAVIN: Many protesters critique the predominantly violent narrative of the protest in mainstream media, especially out of context of the history of the Oakland Police Department.
JULION, PROTESTER: We don’t trust the media. Nobody trusts the media. They use the word violence. Breaking property is not violence. When they say violence, most people, if they hear the word violence, they’re thinking we’re hitting people and actually injuring people.
CAT BROOKS, COCHAIR, ONYX ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: What the media is not covering is the emergence of black power and black leadership in this movement. What they’re choosing to cover are the handful of white folks that want to cover their faces and break windows. They’re not talking about the people of color that are also engaging in those tactics and what the motivation behind those tactics may be.
MULDAVIN: Following a civil lawsuit about police brutality in 2003, the Oakland Police Department was put under federal oversight. In 2012, they had still failed to comply with the reforms outlined in the settlement.
CROWD: No justice, no peace! Say what? No racist police!
BROOKS: Of course there’s Oscar Grant, right, that, as far as I’m concerned, the international phenomenon that that created laid the foundation for a lot of the work that we’ve seen around police terrorism ever since. But you’ve got Gary King, you’ve got Alan Blueford. Most recently you’ve got Jacorey Calhoun, which–he wasn’t as known about, because he was one of the, like, seven black people that were killed just a month after Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson.
MULDAVIN: Similar to Michael Brown, Oscar Grant became a symbol of the repetitive killings of unarmed black men by police officers after his fatal shooting in the Fruitvale BART station on January 1, 2009.
WENDY JOHNSON, MOTHER OF OSCAR GRANT: It makes me carry out my son’s legacy and to remind what my son was doing when he was on the platform. He stood up for his friend’s life and wanted to talk to someone in charge, and he ended up losing his life [snip] that I’m standing up to bring awareness that all lives, black lives, matter.
CROWD: I believe that we will win!
MULDAVIN: Unlike the protests that have been taking place at night, there was a stronger presence of mothers that came to the Alameda Courthouse to speak out against police aggression against black children.
MONICA BROOKS, PROTESTER: –and you’re afraid that the police are going to hurt you, then you can’t even go to the store without that fear. And as a parent, you can’t let your child go anywhere.
VISHAY HARVEY, PROTESTER: My son is paranoid now, as, I mean, all his friends are. The police get anywhere near them and they’re afraid.
MULDAVIN: The night brought a very different approach in-crowd than earlier in the day. The protesters traversed over a dozen miles across the city of Oakland, blocking traffic with bikes, bodies, and music.
TARIK LOGAN, PROTESTER: We want our voice to be heard. That’s been the whole point of this protest. That’s why we’re here. We’re angry, but we’re peaceful too.
MULDAVIN: Most protesters did remain peaceful, though some acts of vandalism sprinkled throughout the night. Minutes after the first window was smashed, the police pursued protesters throughout the city and eventually kettled them between city blocks.
Though dozens were arrested on top of the hundreds that were arrested earlier this week, the protesters plan on continuing to occupy the streets.
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