‘We come out to protest police brutality and what happens? We get a police state!’

We demand the immediate release of all those arrested on Nov. 5 and that all charges are dismissed

by the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant

The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant (ONYX Organizing Committee, The New Years Movement, The General Assembly for Justice for Oscar Grant) condemns the activity of the Oakland Police Department leading up to, during and following the rally held on Nov. 5, 2010, in response to the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant III.

While the city publicly claimed it had learned lessons from July 8 and would not militarize downtown Oakland or create a climate of fear and intimidation on Nov. 5, they privately constructed an all-out military strategy to intimidate and control the people.

Police agencies from at least nine different counties, along with Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA and DOJ descended upon Oakland. As people gathered to peacefully assemble, they had to wade through rows of police just to get to the City Hall Plaza. This in itself set a tone of anger for the people as they had just learned that Johannes Mehserle would only serve about seven months in prison for the cold-blooded murder of Oscar Grant.

Police agencies from at least nine different counties, along with Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA and DOJ descended upon Oakland.

Following almost five hours of peaceful protesting, about 300 people decided to march to the Fruitvale BART Station, the location of the murder of Grant on Jan. 1, 2009. Instead of facilitating the march in a productive and peaceful manner, the police chose to immediately respond with tactical and strategic repression of the people’s will and rights. The encroachment of the police on to the marchers further fueled the flame of an ignited community and led to an unnecessary confrontation on the streets of Oakland.

Shortly after the march started, about 200 protestors were cornered on the block of East 17th Street and Sixth Avenue. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) attempted to contact city officials and negotiate with the police to release the people with no arrests.

And even though word came that Police Chief Batts had agreed to give an order to release the crowd, moments later the arrests began.

As caught on video (posted below) by Youth Radio, Rachel Jackson stood before a line of militarized police and shouted: “We come out to protest police brutality and what happens? We get a police state!” Rachel is with the New Year’s Movement, part of the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant that organized the protest.

Police officers refused to talk to representatives from the NLG and indeed were hostile. Negotiating with these representatives from the rally could have further diffused activity on the streets of Oakland, but the police were intent on creating a situation that would then allow them to demonize the people and remove the focus from the unjust, unfair and outright farce of a sentence received by Johannes Mehserle.

The police were intent on creating a situation that would then allow them to demonize the people and remove the focus from the unjust, unfair and outright farce of a sentence received by Johannes Mehserle.

Additionally, Chief Batts has been quoted as saying that the police expected protesters to march to Li’l Bobby Hutton (DeFremery) Park but organizers were told explicitly that roads to the park would be blocked by police barricades. The police in effect set the stage for their repressive activity to make a point to any other community members intent on making their voices heard in dissent to the system.

The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant stands in solidarity with the people arrested on Nov. 5 and we stand firm in our belief that the people have a right to assemble, a right to demonstrate, a right to march and a right to take a stand against a system that continuously oppresses, brutalizes and murders them.

We demand the immediate release of all those arrested on Nov. 5 and that all charges are dismissed.

The Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant can be reached at artisticintentions@yahoo.com. Bay View staff contributed to this report.

youthradio | Nov. 5, 2010

After the peaceful rally in Frank Ogawa Plaza, a march headed to the Fruitvale BART station gets interrupted on International Boulevard as police block off the streets. Police and protesters then began a game of cat and mouse in East Oakland where police finally surround protesters on Sixth Avenue and East 17th Street. An estimated 150 protesters were then arrested.

hellagetto | Nov. 5, 2010

Protest stemming from the Mehserle sentencing that took place in Los Angeles earlier today, Nov. 5, 2010. In Oakland, the community response was to rally, but then also to march to Fruitvale BART station, the station where Oscar Grant was killed.

Rachel Jackson speaks to the few official press people left just before police began making arrests. At this moment, no one knew where they could go, how to get out nor what was going to happen.

Loud speaker announcements were made that the area was declared a crime scene. There was never any indication to disperse, no dispersal order given, no declaration of martial law or anything like that at all. No one was allowed to leave once the police penned people in. Prior to that, people were marching toward Fruitvale BART peacefully on city streets. They were met with riot gear police every few blocks until they were trapped in a cul de sac type neighborhood.

– Oriana Bolden

CNN producer note

anascanon happened to be in Oakland when he heard helicopters and rushed outside to see what was happening. “It wasn’t really unruly,” he said of the protest. “The crowd was trapped between the city blocks, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to resist. And [the police] had guns that looked like they were from Star Wars or something.” As a member of the media (he was just shooting the protest, not participating), he was able to leave just before the police began arresting protesters.

rachel8, CNN iReport producer

iReport

Tonight I was trapped and held by police – the Oakland Police Department – during a peaceful protest for Oscar Grant. Right before they arrested everyone, they said that members of the press could leave. I raised my camera in the air and was then rushed through the police blockade. I ran home to post this for the pubic to see.