Following weeks of protests around the country, 250 protesters shut down the streets in downtown Oakland, Calif., as well as the Oakland Police Department on Monday, calling for “an immediate end to the war on black people.”
The blockade started at 7:30 a.m., lasting for four hours and 28 minutes. The four hours was a reference to the amount of time Michael Brown’s body laid on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., after he was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson, while the 28 minutes signifies the fact that every 28 hours a black man is killed, according to a study by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
Thirty organizers with the all-black BlackOut Collective gathered outside of the Oakland Police Department, singing and holding a banner that read “Black and Breathing,” as #Asians4BlackLives and white activists with Bay Solidarity Action blocked doors and street entrances to department headquarters.
BlackOut Collective organizer Deirdre Smith stated that, “We fight for justice for every single black life that has passed at the hands of police, but we must also stand up and shut down for the black and breathing, who are at risk of the same fate.”
One protester scaled a flag post outside the building, hoisting a flag with the faces of Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Alex Nieto, Eric Garner and Oscar Grant, an unarmed Oakland resident killed by police at the Fruitvale BART station in 2009. Led by the BlackOut Collective, the action was coordinated by the three groups with the intention of shutting down the police department and showing — as one protester’s lock box read — that “Silence Is Violence” for whites and non-black people of color. In all, 37 arrests were made.
Christine Cordero, who participated in the action as part of #Asians4BlackLives, said in a press statement that “it is our turn to stand with black communities who are under attack from racist violence.”
The protest follows the movement’s biggest action yet in New York City, where an estimated 50,000 people flocked to Washington Square Park on Saturday for Millions March NYC. After ending at One Police Plaza, the march was followed by a smaller break-off group that continued on through Brooklyn.
The collection of Oakland groups presented police with a set of five demands, written by Ferguson Action, to be implemented both locally and nationally. The demands include the de-militarization of local law enforcement, community oversight of police and the Obama administration’s creation of a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice.
Heralynn Blueford, mother of a man killed by an Oakland police officer in 2012, told a local NBC affiliate that the action was connected both to this most recent wave of #ShutItDown protests, as well as the civil rights movements of the 1960s.
“We got our seats because of our highly organized and effectively sustained protests and boycotts, disrupting business as usual,” she said referring to lunch counter sit-ins and the Montgomery bus boycott. Many of the black activists who took part in Monday’s action also helped to coordinate last month’s West Oakland BART shutdown on Black Friday.
Monday’s action represents a new kind of solidarity for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, with white and non-black people of color taking the lead from locally-rooted black organizations to shut down traffic, police departments and businesses while demanding long-term solutions to police violence and systemic racism.