Oakland youth lead 15,000 marching for George Floyd

“We don’t like police states. If you live here in the Bay, you know that Alameda County’s 8:00 p.m. curfew was declared in the middle of a 15,000 strong march of young people, high school and college students. They were tear gassed for violating a curfew they didn’t know about when they started marching. This is not how a society treats its children. It is not freedom, it is not democracy, it is not tolerable,” writes Media Alliance in a statement about this march. – Photo: Eric Ruud

by East Bay DSA

Oakland – On Monday, young people from across the East Bay led a peaceful march to show solidarity with George Floyd’s family and the Black community at large, which falls victim to the systemic racism and barbarity of America’s police forces. In this time of crisis, the Oakland community stands together in pursuit of justice for George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, for Breonna Taylor, Steven Taylor in San Leandro and David McAtee in Louisville, for Oscar Grant in Oakland, and for all victims of police violence everywhere. 

Fifteen thousand protesters of all ages gathered at Oakland Tech High School for a rally before embarking on a non-violent march down to Oscar Grant Plaza. Speeches and spoken word performances from the youth organizers as well as family of those murdered by police brutality in the East Bay educated participants on the brutal history of the police, capitalism, white supremacy and the exploitation of Black talent and achievement for the profits of corporations at the start and end of the march. 

Oakland tried to sabotage the youth-led march by announcing a curfew after 15,000 pairs of feet were already marching. They kept marching. – Photo: Eric Ruud

Lead organizers Akil Riley and Xavier Brown collaborated to set up a non-violent event for everyone in Oakland who is opposed to the racism entwined in the fabric of the United States of America. During this time of massive uprising sweeping the country, we have seen peaceful protesters, reporters and even children targeted by tear gas and excessive force at the hands of out-of-control police departments. 

“Don’t let someone who doesn’t know your pain tell you how to fight.”

The march, which stretched down Broadway and beyond the horizon, was book-ended by cars and trucks decorated with heartfelt tributes to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police violence. Marchers danced to music from the lead cars that blended with bells from the local church, ringing continuously in solidarity with the marchers, holding banners and signs demanding real material change like defunding, demilitarizing or even abolishing the police, as well as an end to silence and complicity from those who are in positions of power and privilege. The crowd was peaceful and hopeful, but no longer willing to accept mere platitudes and hashtags in the face of yet another gratuitous murder at the hands of the police. 

“You don’t need to be a professional organizer to fight against police brutality. Don’t let anyone tell you that, no matter which side it’s coming from. It’s not some game of checkers and chess. Many times people don’t know the pain that it brings, so they tell you how to fight. Don’t let someone who doesn’t know your pain tell you how to fight,” said Akil Riley during one of the speeches. 

Jordan, a student, lit up the crowd when it was her turn at the mic. – Photo: Eric Ruud

Xavier Brown shared: “I’m still in school right now and it’s been tough balancing schoolwork with organizing for justice. Not only that, I’m putting my life on the line and that is scary. Being face-to-face with people who can and will end your life over something unreasonable makes me anxious. It keeps me up at night. It’s nerve-racking stuff, but it has to be done.” 

Unfortunately, after thousands had already gathered at Oakland Tech for peaceful protest, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf declared an 8 p.m. curfew for the city. The crowd, which had already commenced their nonviolent action, was now declared criminal by the system it was attempting to resist, simply for marching peacefully down the street. 

At the end of the march, student organizers Akil Riley (left) and Xavier Brown congratulate each other on a job well done.

Shortly after 8 p.m., mass arrests of the young, peaceful protesters attempting to go home began as neighbors and bystanders shouted from their homes, demanding the police “let them go!” But even with this last minute change, the crowd got to hear from powerful student speakers such as Akil and Xavier themselves, Jacqueline Azah, Nadia Brooks, Josiah Jacobs and many others, as well as adult leaders such as Mr. Perez, father of police victim “Pedie” Perez, and Mr. FAB. The coalition built yesterday will not be easily broken. 

Our future is in the hands of these young leaders who even in the face of racist curfews and attempts to silence their voices are refusing to accept the status quo and are organizing a revolution against police brutality, 

This report was compiled by members of East Bay DSA, a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, and members of the Sunrise Movement Bay Area Hub with consent and in support of the student organizers.  East Bay DSA can be reached at localcouncil@eastbaydsa.org. Email the organizers, Akil Riley and Xavier Brown, at akilriley1@gmail.com and xavi3618@gmail.com. More photos from the event can be found here