By Alex Emslie
A crowd of several hundred people blocked traffic on Interstate 880 and descended on West Oakland BART Station, resulting in a brief closure, in another night of sustained protests Friday over high-profile police killings of unarmed black men.
Protests initially over a Missouri grand jury decision not to indict former Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown gained new fuel this week when a New York grand jury did not indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
A few hundred people began gathering in solemn quiet at Telegraph Avenue and 27th Street before 7 p.m. last night. A man stood on the tailgate of a parked truck and told the crowd, “We’re not going to stand for the f-ing police killing us every day,” but added that breaking windows “don’t do nothing — it just breaks you.”
The protest grew as it moved south and met a second march heading north at West Grand and Telegraph avenues, swelling to more than 500 people. Protesters shouted, “Eric Garner, Michael Brown! Shut it down, shut it down!”
Marchers met a line of Oakland police at Broadway and Seventh street, initially blocking the route to the city’s police department and downtown jail.
“Yes, all lives matter,” a woman standing in front of the police line said over a loudspeaker, “but we are here because this system does not give value to black lives. Black lives fall below the windows of Smart and Final.”
Three men were charged with burglary for allegedly looting a Smart and Final market in Oakland during Nov. 25 protests over the Michael Brown killing and grand jury decision not to indict.
The crowd circled around the barricade of police officers and rallied briefly at the jail before marching west and climbing an off-ramp to I-880 near Market and Sixth streets just before 9 p.m.
Protesters stopped traffic in both directions for about 15 minutes before California Highway Patrol officers arrived and began pushing them back to the off-ramp. Several protesters said there were two arrests on the interstate, but that is so far unconfirmed.
Demonstrators, still numbering several hundred, regrouped back at street level and made their way to the West Oakland BART Station. BART Police locked the station down before the march arrived. It had been a week since about two dozen people stopped BART service between San Francisco and the East Bay by chaining themselves to trains on Black Friday.
Protesters shook and banged on the gates blocking station entrances and shouted, “Oscar Grant! Oscar Grant!” at onlooking BART police officers. Grant was shot and killed by then-BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle while he was unarmed and being handcuffed on Jan. 1, 2009.
The march then returned to downtown Oakland, arriving at 14th and Broadway at about 10:30 a.m. A few masked protesters smashed large windows of the new Downtown Wine Merchants shop at the edge of Oakland’s city center.
Employee Edwin Cabrillo was bleeding from his right arm after the brief assault. He said two people beat him up when he tried to stop them from vandalizing the shop.
“We worked all our life to open this business,” he said, adding he agreed with the fury over the killings of Brown and Garner, but not the vandalism.
See Cabrillo’s reaction below:
Right after the glass shattered, other members of the march shouted at the vandals and stood between the larger group and the storefront, but the damage had been done.
Police charged, moving quickly up Broadway while ordering protesters to disperse. They caught some of the dwindling crowd on 27th Street near Telegraph, but most escaped through an alley before the full police perimeter, or “kettle,” could trap them.
There were unconfirmed reports of a few more arrests by Oakland police.