Protests took place in both Oakland and San Francisco Thursday evening in response to a Wednesday grand jury decision not to indict a New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being placed in a chokehold.
Oakland police declared an unlawful assembly around 9 p.m. after stopping a group of protestors at International Boulevard and 22nd Avenue. Police stopped protestors there and then began letting them out a few at a time, splitting up the group.
The group, which began with several hundred people but greatly diminished to around 50 people, marched from 14th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland after two separate protests converged, although some protestors appear to have split off along the way.
One protestor, Sophia Smith of Oakland, said she was protesting because she has a 14-year-old son:
“He’s growing into a man, and every day I fear for his safety.”
Last night’s protests remained peaceful with few arrests, in contrast to protests last week in response to a similar Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.
Oakland resident Ben Lynch said that there is still time for a conviction for the police officers who killed Garner and Brown:
“It’s sad that we can’t even say we have equal application of the law in a democracy.”
Ben McBride, associate Pastor at The Way Christian Center in Berkeley, said:
“Until a black person isn’t getting killed every 28 minutes by police or a vigilante then we shouldn’t have peace. … The system is working the way it’s designed, which is to not provide freedom and opportunities for black people.”
Deja Lyons of Oakland said she had been harassed by police and stopped by officers looking for a robbery suspect:
“They were mad rude, and told us the reason we were getting stopped was because we were black. … I’m just sick of it.”
In San Francisco, Market Street was briefly closed at Powell Street due to a “die-in” protest and buses were rerouted around the area, according city transit officials.
Market Street has cleared and traffic resumed as protestors moved out of the street, transit officials said. A similar protest at Powell Street last night shut down Market Street for more than an hour.
BART officials closed the 12th Street station entrance in Oakland tonight for more than an hour due to the protest, and AC Transit rerouted buses around the downtown area.
Oakland police made a total of 169 arrests last week as freeways were blocked, fires were set, windows were broken and businesses were looted. San Francisco also had several protests last week including one on Black Friday in which store windows at Union Square were smashed and several police officers injured.
Police reported arresting at least 79 people during the Black Friday protest.