Hundreds of protesters rallied outside Oakland City Hall on Thursday as part of a nationwide day of action called for by the Movement for Black Lives against police violence.
Protesters started gathering outside Oakland police headquarters at about 3:30 p.m. and later marched toward City Hall. They converged with other groups of demonstrators along the march, finally arriving at City Hall to rally at the amphitheater outside, where a banner was strung across the doors reading, "Honoring Black Lives Stolen by OPD."
Similar protests, calling for #FreedomNow, were being held in more than 80 cities nationwide, organizers said.
The Oakland protesters were a diverse group of people, young and old, of all races and from a variety of organizations. The demonstration was very peaceful, staying on the sidewalk and only briefly blocking streets as the group marched up Broadway from the Oakland police building at 455 Seventh St. to City Hall. Groups of children carried colorful signs, and one woman even brought her pet rabbit along.
Protests have surged in Oakland and throughout the country in recent weeks following the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Philando Castile in Wisconsin and Delrawn Small in New York. Recent protests over Sterling and Castile's deaths shut down Interstate 880 in Oakland for hours.
Oakland organizers said of Thursday's action that their demands are the recall of Mayor Libby Schaaf, to investigate and hold accountable the officers implicated in a sexual exploitation scandal, divest half the police budget and reinvest it in educational programs and to establish a civilian police commission, a proposal that's expected to go before voters this November but is opposed by the police officers' union.
"We are taking action in solidarity with Movement for Black Lives organizers who are taking militant action for a future in which they can be free from state-sanctioned violence and oppression. We echo their call for #FreedomNow," Showing Up For Racial Justice organizer Sam Bickle said in a statement.
Oakland resident Sarah Raridon spent most of the day chained to the door of Oakland police headquarters, saying she intended to remain there "until they stop killing black people."
"Specifically as a white person, I see a lot of white people immobilized by guilt and fear," Raridon said. "It will take a lot of us putting our bodies on the line to make change."
She said she wasn't part of some larger organizing group beyond taking up the call to action, but that she had been seeing what was going on in the news and "passion" drove her to affix herself to the door of the police headquarters building with heavy chains and sit on the concrete in the hot sun Thursday.
"This is the most direct way I could think of to physically stop police from murdering black people," she said. "I really do feel that none of us are free until all of us are free."
Oakland police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said in a statement, "The Oakland Police Department is aware of the rally that is going on now and will facilitate a peaceful march this evening. We are committed to upholding the constitutional right to free speech and peaceful assembly, while enforcing all laws against violent acts, vandalism, trespassing or other criminal activity."
Thursday's actions follow a lengthy sit-in staged Wednesday afternoon when several protesters chained themselves to the Oakland Police Officers' Association building around the corner from police headquarters.
The protesters were allowed to stay but left voluntarily at about 3 a.m., Anti-Police Terror Project organizer Cat Brooks said Thursday. Similar actions were staged at police union buildings in New York and Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.