The Oakland City Council early Wednesday morning voted to approve the first step to banning "tools of violence" at protests and to accept a controversial $2 million Homeland Security grant to install 130 surveillance cameras throughout the city.
The meeting lasted until about 1 a.m. Wednesday and was riddled by people at the meeting wondering how the ban would be enforced and also voicing privacy concerns regarding the cameras. The final reading for the tool ban is scheduled for Sept. 17.
If the tool ordinance passes, it would prohibit such things as hammers, wrenches, spray paint and firecrackers and other such items at protests. The proposal was initiated by Councilman Noel Gallo, who said he wants to counter violence that occurred during recent protests against the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Gallo said the damage to businesses in downtown Oakland and the adjacent Chinatown district following this month's aquittal of Zimmerman included broken windows, graffiti and arson. In addition, a waiter at the restaurant Flora was hit in the face with a hammer.
Gallo said the ordinance is needed because "the Oakland Police Department needs additional tools to help protect life and property in our city."
Referring to the violence that occurred in the recent protests, Gallo said, "This behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop. There have been demonstrations all over the country in response to the verdict in the George Zimmerman case yet no other city has experienced the level of violence and destruction that we have experienced here in Oakland."
Still, someone like Jessica Peters doesn't like the idea of it. What about if someone brings a pen, or pepper spray to a demonstration? How will that be policed? she wanted to know.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Michael Risher told Bay City News earlier that Gallo's ordinance is more narrowly drafted than the 2012 proposal and appears to be constitutional but he still has concerns about it.
In addition, the council voted on Wednesday morning to accept $2 million in federal funding for the Domain Awareness Center, which are surveillance cameras at the Port of Oakland, the airport and city streets. Council members said the footage would not be recorded or stored at the center until privacy safeguards can be adopted in the spring. Cities from Chicago to Houston have such intelligence hubs.
Bay City News contributed to this report.