Protesters shut down Oakland Police Department for almost 4.5 hours today, demand end to police aggression against Black people

by Samantha Liapes, Chinyere Tutashinda and Alex Tom

Oakland, Dec. 15, 2014 – At approximately 7:30 this morning, the Oakland Police Department Headquarters was blockaded by protesters demanding an end to racist violence against the Black community. One person climbed the flagpole directly in front of the OPD Headquarters to fly a banner in honor of Black people murdered by police. Minutes later, a group of about 30 Black protesters occupied the space in front of the police department and called for an immediate end to the war on Black people.

This panoramic view early in the protest shows the Black-led #ShutdownOPD protesters arrayed outside Oakland Police Department Headquarters before a large crowd of supporters had assembled. Four entrances were blocked by non-Black protesters chained together, with lines of chained protesters blocking two streets. Non-Blacks took on the roles that most often lead to arrest, hoping their privileged status would protect them from brutality. It did, and some were not even arrested. – Photo: BaySolidarity
This panoramic view early in the protest shows the Black-led #ShutdownOPD protesters arrayed outside Oakland Police Department Headquarters before a large crowd of supporters had assembled. Four entrances were blocked by non-Black protesters chained together, with lines of chained protesters blocking two streets. Non-Blacks took on the roles that most often lead to arrest, hoping their privileged status would protect them from brutality. It did, and some were not even arrested. – Photo: BaySolidarity

As members from the all-Black groups #BlackLivesMatter, Blackout Collective and #BlackBrunch sang freedom songs for the many Black people killed at the hands of police and for Black people who are still breathing, an Asian solidarity group called #Asians4BlackLives blockaded the doors to the police station. They were joined by a white solidarity group called Bay Area Solidarity Action Team (BASAT), who also blockaded entrances into the building. A total of four sets of doors were blocked at the police headquarters.

As a contingent of Black protest leaders chanted below, an experienced climber used his gear to carry a banner up the OPD flagpole and unfurl it, revealing pictures of four young men murdered by police. He stayed there for hours, as chained protesters ringed the base of the flagpole. – Photo: BaySolidarity
As a contingent of Black protest leaders chanted below, an experienced climber used his gear to carry a banner up the OPD flagpole and unfurl it, revealing pictures of four young men murdered by police. He stayed there for hours, as chained protesters ringed the base of the flagpole. – Photo: BaySolidarity

As Wazi Maret David, an Oakland resident and violence prevention educator, explained, “It was clear from this action today that everyone is a part of a long-term movement to end violence against Black people.”

Right after the doors were blockaded, white protesters blocked off intersections at Seventh and Broadway and Eighth and Broadway using lock boxes, causing a major traffic jam along the 880 corridor and into Alameda. A crowd of approximately 250 gathered chanting, “No prisons, no cops, this racist system’s got to stop.”

The banner raised on the flagpole commemorates lives taken by police violence, including Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Alex Nieto, Renisha McBride and Michael Brown. Another set of protesters locked themselves to the base of the flagpole to prevent the banner from being removed.

“It was clear from this action today that everyone is a part of a long-term movement to end violence against Black people.”

Black protesters held a banner that read “Black and Breathing,” and #Asians4BlackLives carried a banner reading “End the War on Black People.” As organizer Christine Cordero explained, “Today we showed real solidarity. We are proud of how allies like #Asians4BlackLives took the lead from and showed up for Black-led groups.

“This was an important opportunity to call out to Asian communities across the country that we cannot be silent while there’s a war on Black people. When there were wars in South Vietnam, on Muslims, on Asian people, Black people stood up. And it is our turn to stand with Black communities who are under attack from racist violence.”

Protesters proudly sustained their action for four hours and 28 minutes: 4 hours for the time Michael Brown’s body lay in the street in Ferguson and an additional 28 minutes to call attention to the fact that every 28 hours in the U.S. a Black person is killed by police, military, security or vigilantes.

Students from Deecolonize Academy, sponsored by POOR Magazine at Homefulness in Deep East Oakland, chant, “We’re not afraid of the OPD,” at #ShutdownOPD on the rain-soaked morning of Dec. 15. – Photo: BGD
Students from Deecolonize Academy, sponsored by POOR Magazine at Homefulness in Deep East Oakland, chant, “We’re not afraid of the OPD,” at #ShutdownOPD on the rain-soaked morning of Dec. 15. – Photo: BGD

By noon, the protest was cleared. Twenty-seven arrests were made and most protesters were cited and released quickly. Charges against protesters included obstructing public agencies and resisting police officers. While cutting protesters away from one door, authorities accidentally smashed a window of the police department.

“Silence is violence,” said Felicia Gustin of the white-led Bay Area Solidarity Action Team. “The abusive treatment of people of color by the police is a moral crisis for our country and our city, and we cannot turn a blind eye any longer. It is time for white people to join with Black communities to end the war on Black people.”

Mollie Costello, the aunt of Alan Blueford, a young Black man who was shot by the Oakland Police Department, said, “This was an inspiring example of successfully holding space in the tradition of the lunch counter sit-ins and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, demonstrating the right of Black people to exist and thrive.”

“The abusive treatment of people of color by the police is a moral crisis for our country and our city, and we cannot turn a blind eye any longer. It is time for white people to join with Black communities to end the war on Black people.”

Protesters from all groups pressed for the national Ferguson Action demands to be immediately implemented locally and nationally (published below and at http://fergusonaction.com/demands/).

Statement from #Asians4BlackLives: End the war on Black people

by Alex Tom

We stand on the doorstep of the Oakland Police Department today as a group of Asians putting our bodies on the line in response to a national call to shut down institutions that perpetrate the war on Black people. It is unacceptable that every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the police, security or vigilantes.

As Asians, we recognize the ways in which we’ve been used historically to prop up the anti-Black racism that allows this violence to occur.

The Asian contingent chained themselves together and to the doors to solidly block the main entrance to the Oakland PD Headquarters. – Photo: BaySolidarity
The Asian contingent chained themselves together and to the doors to solidly block the main entrance to the Oakland PD Headquarters. – Photo: BaySolidarity

We are an extremely diverse community. Some of us have been targeted, profiled and killed by U.S. government institutions. Many of us came to the U.S. as a result of the devastation and displacement caused by the U.S. military and its “partners” in Asia, only to find a country that uses police to devastate and displace Black communities. However, we also recognize the relative privilege that many of us carry as Asians living in the U.S.

Many of our Asian brothers and sisters around the country have made powerful statements in support of ending the war on Black people and shown up to protest. We hope that Asian communities will join us in reflecting on and continuing to practice an intentional Black-Asian solidarity, as we work toward the vision offered by organizers in Ferguson:

“We are striving for a world where we deal with harm in our communities through healing, love and kinship. This means an end to state sponsored violence, including the excessive use of force by law enforcement. We are committed to an America that comes to terms with the trauma of its painful history and finds true reconciliation for it.

“Mass incarceration and the over criminalization of Black and Brown people must forever end, leaving in its place a culture that embraces our histories and stories. This means an end to racial bias and white supremacy in all its forms.

“Our dreams are directly linked with those resisting militarism, war and state repression around the world. We will achieve this new beloved community hand in hand, step by step, in global solidarity with all people committed to lasting peace and full justice.”

We understand that our liberation depends on the liberation of Black people, and echo the demands that have come out of Ferguson.

Ferguson Action National Demands

  1. The de-militarization of local law enforcement across the country

Strict limits on the transfer and use of military equipment to local law enforcement and the adoption of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014. The federal government should discontinue the supply of military weaponry and equipment to local law enforcement and immediately demilitarize local law enforcement, including eliminating the use of military technology and equipment.

White allies blocked one street – those blocking the other street were chained together. – Photo: BaySolidarity
White allies blocked one street – those blocking the other street were chained together. – Photo: BaySolidarity
  1. A comprehensive review of systemic abuses by local police departments, including the publication of data relating to racially biased policing and the development of best practices

A comprehensive review by the Department of Justice into systematic abuses by police departments and the development of specific use of force standards and accompanying recommendations for police training, community involvement and oversight strategies and standards for independent investigatory and disciplinary mechanisms when excessive force is used. These standards must include a Department of Justice review trigger when continued excessive use of force occurs.

A comprehensive federal review of police departments’ data collection practices and the development of a new comprehensive data collection system that allows for annual reporting of data on the rates of stops, frisks, searches, summonses and arrests by race, age and gender. These standards must also include a DOJ review trigger when departments continue discriminatory policing practices.

  1. Repurposing of law enforcement funds to support community based alternatives to incarceration and the conditioning of DOJ funding on the ending of discriminatory policing and the adoption of DOJ best practices

The repurposing of Department of Justice funds to create grants that support and implement community oversight mechanisms and community based alternatives to law enforcement and incarceration – including community boards and commissions, restorative justice practices, amnesty programs to clear open warrants and know-your-rights education conducted by community members.

The development of a DOJ policy to withhold funds from local police departments that engage in discriminatory policing practices and condition federal grant funds on the adoption of recommended DOJ trainings, community involvement and oversight strategies, use of force standards and standards for independent investigatory and disciplinary mechanisms.

Black protest organizers give a Black Power salute as the climber ascends the flagpole. – Photo: BaySolidarity
Black protest organizers give a Black Power salute as the climber ascends the flagpole. – Photo: BaySolidarity
  1. A congressional hearing investigating the criminalization of communities of color, racial profiling, police abuses and torture by law enforcement

Congressional hearings investigating the criminalization of communities of color and systemic law enforcement discriminatory profiling and other abuses especially at the local level, including an examination of systemic structures and institutional practices and the elevation of the experiences and voices of those most impacted. Congressional hearings will allow for a continuation of the national discussion about police abuse and its underlying causes.

  1. Passage of the End Racial Profiling Act.

Support for the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), which in law would prohibit the use of profiling on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion by law enforcement agencies.

  1. The development and enactment of a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice by the Obama administration

The National Plan of Action for Racial Justice should be a comprehensive plan that addresses persistent and ongoing forms of racial discrimination and disparities that exist in nearly every sphere of life, including criminal justice, employment, housing, education, health, land and property, voting, poverty and immigration. The plan would set concrete targets for achieving racial equality and reducing racial disparities and create new tools for holding government accountable to meeting targets.

Samantha Liapes, Chinyere Tutashinda and Alex Tom can be reached at baysolidarityaction@gmail.com and @baysolidarity. Photos and videos are available at www.baysolidarity.wordpress.com and www.asians4blacklives.tumblr.com/.


Protesters are chanting: “No prisons, no cops, this racist system’s got to stop!”


Protesters are chanting: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”