OccupyOakland rings in the new year with protests against police

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OccupyOakland remains defiantly active despite repeated crackdowns by police.

Occupy Oakland kicked off the year with two marches protesting police and prisons. A march to the Oakland City Jail on New Year’s Eve was followed by a march against police brutality on New Year’s Day, ending with a rally against police violence. Speakers at the rally indicated that the Bay’s most radicalized Occupy group may focus on an anti-police repression theme in the new year.

About 300 people attended a nighttime demonstration in Oakland City Center on Dec. 31. Protesters left Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza at 9:45 and marched to the city jail. About 20 Occupy Oakland protesters remain in jail after several different incidents of arrest in the past weeks.

At the jail, protesters spoke about police repression, set off fireworks, and chanted “inside or outside, we’re all on the same side.” Many reported seeing solidarity fists sticking out from between bars on the jail’s windows.

The demonstration was part of a national call for New Year’s Eve jail solidarity protests, and similar “noise demonstrations,” in which protesters made noise outside jails to show solidarity with inmates. Similar protests took place in 25 cities around the world.

The march featured a giant banner stating “Fuck the police.”

Around 11:30 pm, protesters marched back for a dance party on the plaza. “At midnight, we did the countdown like everyone else,” said Patrick, who has been involved in OccupySF and Occupy Oakland.

A banner dropped in the plaza read, “Out with the old. Occupy 2012.”

At 1 pm on Jan. 1, Occupy Oakland participants gathered once again. They marched to Fruitvale Bart Station in an anti-police brutality march commemorating Oscar Grant. The unarmed young Oakland man was killed on Jan. 1, 2009 by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the shooting and given a two-year prison sentence.

The march was followed by a rally and speak-out with about 500 in attendance. Several women with sons and grandsons who had been killed by police in San Francisco and Oakland shared their experiences. Adam Jordan, member of the Oscar Grant Committee for Justice, said that Occupy Oakland had helped unify the local community against police brutality.

Several speakers agreed that police violence against the poor and people of color and recent arrests at Occupy Oakland, as well as tear gas and other weapons used against Occupy Oakland protesters, are all connected. “It’s all systemic. It’s the same problem,” Jordan said. “The police that are attacking everyone in Occupy Oakland now have been attacking black people for centuries.”

Members of Oscar Grant’s family, including his mother, his young daughter, his fiancé, his uncle, and several cousins, were also present, and many spoke.

Gerald Smith, an organizer with Occupy Oakland and member of the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and Repression, read aloud a message from Angela Davis, who has proposed nationwide demonstrations to free political prisoners on Feb. 20. He also talked about several proposals to continue to protest against police violence in the East Bay, including picketing the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and emergency meetings the following day every time an Oakland resident is killed by a police officer.

In a reference to the leaderless, “horizontal” structure that has defined Occupy groups around the world, Smith said to the crowd, “How much will we do this? It’s up to you. I hope you know by now, you decide everything.”

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