OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Marching down the main drag of the second most diverse city in the nation, thousands of protesters stomped by boarded up storefronts in Oakland, California, Monday evening as they called for police reform.
It was a massive but peaceful protest following several nights of chaos that included looting and vandalism in San Francisco and surrounding cities and the shooting death of a security guard outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland Friday night.
The crowd shouted “Justice Now” and “What’s his name? George Floyd,” referring to the 46-year-old black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes on May 25, setting off a wave of protests across the nation.
Old and young, white and black, people marched two miles down one of the city’s main arteries, Broadway, from Oakland Technical High School at 42nd Street to Oakland City Hall on 14th Street. The protest was organized by students from the high school.
Just as the protest was starting at 4 p.m. Monday, Alameda County, which includes Oakland, announced it was putting in place a curfew that requires everyone stay indoors from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. with limited exceptions. The curfew was called after two nights in which large groups broke windows and looted stores in the nearby cities of Emeryville, San Leandro and Walnut Creek. A Target store in Oakland also had its windows broken Friday night.
As protesters marched down Broadway in Oakland Monday evening, two high school students — Kaya and Emma — parked themselves on a bench near 38th Street handing out free masks, gloves, snacks, water bottles, and milk, which they heard can help if someone gets doused with tear gas.
Kaya explained that her family was worried about her safety and risk of getting infected with Covid-19 but she still wanted to do something to support the Black Lives Matter movement without actively protesting.
“I’m a little nervous about being out there so this is my way of helping and supporting people who are doing the hard work,” Kaya said.
Although nearly all the protesters wore masks, many were crowded close together and did not stay six feet apart from one another.
Outside City Hall, Pastor Cheryl Ward of Cheryl Ward Ministries in Oakland told a crowd of thousands of people that the faith community supports calls for police reform.
“Keep saying his name and keeping doing what you’re doing until we can all breathe together,” Ward said, referring to Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe.”
Rick Perez, the father of 24-year-old Richard “Pedie” Perez who was shot dead by a police officer in Richmond, California, in 2014, also spoke at the rally in front of City Hall.
The elder Perez recounted the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers and the 2009 shooting death of unarmed Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station in Oakland in 2009.
“You think the police departments would learn their lesson,” Perez said. “Let’s get the laws changed to hold these police accountable.”
After the rally at City Hall, most protesters marched back to Oakland Technical High School and dispersed before the 8 p.m. curfew took effect. However, more than 100 protesters advanced on the Oakland police station and were met with tear gas, according to ABC7 and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Oakland Police Department said it arrested about 40 people for violating curfew “after giving multiple orders to disperse.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said it had arrested 100 people across the county for violating curfew as of 9 p.m.
In San Francisco Monday evening, roughly 100 demonstrators knelt in front of City Hall, chanting “I can’t breathe,” and “no justice, no peace, no racist police.”
Occasionally, a man with a megaphone extorted police officers to kneel alongside them for Floyd.
“The first officer to kneel is a hero,” said a demonstrator with a megaphone, which spurred the crowd to chant “kneel for George Floyd.”
The police did not respond to the peaceful crowd, which inched closer to the barricades in front of City Hall but made no attempt to cross them. Cars drove freely up and down Polk Street in front of City Hall, honking in support of the protest before the police eventually formed lines to block vehicular access.
With a phalanx of police in front of City Hall, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, and in front of the San Francisco Superior courthouse, there appeared to be more police at the demonstration than protesters, who sat in silence for long periods of time, holding Black Lives Matter signs before breaking into sporadic chanting.
CNS Reporter Maria Dinzeo contributed to this report.