Schaaf to protesters: Message received

A day after protesters staged a pre-dawn demonstration outside of newly inaugurated Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the mayor responded Tuesday by saying their complaints are legitimate.

Schaaf had been criticized for not coming outside to talk with the demonstrators when they rang her doorbell around 5 a.m. Monday, but she said she was in the shower at the time. Her husband went to the door instead and the protesters provided him with a flier, which Schaaf said she has read.

Their demands included the de-escalation of police forces on a national level and an equal distribution of resources here in Oakland.

The protesters said they’d like to see funds reallocated towards schools, libraries, infrastructure and economic development in their communities rather than what they called blank checks for law enforcement as a way of solving complex social issues.

Schaaf said:

“Some of the specific demands are things that would need to be addressed at the federal level, and some would require us to address them through union negotiations. … But the overarching theme of having more legitimacy in policing is a national issue and I agree that we have work to do.”

Schaaf added:

“While Oakland is probably ahead of many other cities, this is clearly a problem that needs to be fixed and I take it very seriously.”

Schaaf said she was surprised to see the protest outside her home at such an early hour and was concerned that it might wake up her young children. Her family and neighbors reportedly took the situation in stride, however. Schaaf called it a “teachable moment”:

“That’s just part of Oakland and who we are as Oaklanders. … We have always been on the forefront of social change and awareness and that’s something I value.”

Schaaf called the unexpected early morning protest outside her home peaceful, respectful and creative:

“They sang and danced and had slideshows and light displays and left beautiful chalk markings on the street. … They in no way did any damage to property and they did not try to hide their identities by covering their faces.”

Schaaf said she thinks the protesters were a different group than individuals seen engaging in vandalism and occasional violence at some recent protests.:

“There is a very dangerous element out there, but I think that’s an exception and not part of the very legitimate protest movement we’re seeing in Oakland.”

Schaaf said she’s interested in meeting and talking with the protesters during her regular office hours at City Hall.