Fuck the Police, We’re All Oscar Grant.
Most of those tired or made restless by the rally leave to march: young people, communists, anarchists, neo-Black Panthers. All kinds of signs and styles of dress represent their affiliations: the fitteds of hiphop heads, the berets of the Panthers and Brown Berets, Maoists and their ubiquitous paper, anarchists and their all black clothing, but mostly it’s Oakland’s children: Black and Brown youth. At the front of the march is a crew on their scraper bikes. The march leaves down International Blvd, a thoroughfare that crosses the largely Black and Latin@ Fruitvale neighborhood and the largely Asian Lake Merritt neighborhood. The police presence is light, mostly staying ahead and behind the march clearing traffic. Hundreds of black masks are being handed out; residents and car commuters voice their support. The mood is spontaneous, loud, and unruly: groups of kids run up and down through the march, no one was solemn, tired, or quiet. The mood is electric with anger.
Police are mobilizing and blocking traffic far down the road. But they keep their distance and follow us on parallel streets.
Strong in numbers, we start to gather momentum as we move through Fruitvale, feeling that we are ready for ac- tion. While there is a feeling of ignitable anger within the crowd, there is a feeling of fear and paranoia among police forces. Helicopter lights flash over us as we march in surreal soft evening California light through the streets of Fruitvale. We are black clad figures standing out against abrasively neon banners. Shy smiles exchange in the crowd with the flash of cellphones, teeth, scraper bikes, jewelry and the various adornments of a million subcultures. It is getting dark.
As we move towards the Lake Merritt BART station people in the crowd chant about BART as the target. Moving off freeways and into the edge of downtown, the frustration begins to feel more focused; we’re moving towards BART police headquarters. A young woman lights a bundle of pa- per on fire and raises it defiantly above her head. As we all move towards the BART station there’s the feeling of moving as a single unit. There’s the moment of confusion between taking over the freeway which is right in front of us or going for the gold: moving into downtown Oakland and wreaking havoc. Where are we going? But with so many people, with so much energy, it doesn’t seem to matter.
At the front of the march kids on scraper bikes and a few individuals on foot make the decision to move onto 12th street away from where cops are gathering up ahead. We’ve ducked out of the helicopter’s spotlight. We find ourselves momentarily without any police presence. We are now very close to the Lake Merritt station.
Hey there is a dumpster down that block. You guys want to go get it?
What about the cops down there?
They’re far away enough that they won’t mess with us.
Five people move the dumpster into the crowd and start to bang on it; cheers erupt.
At 8th and Madison a police cruiser is blocking traffic next to BART police headquarters. It becomes the focal point of people’s anger as people start to surround it. Two officers get out, noticeably concerned about the angry crowd.
Pigs go home! Pigs go home!
The cops quickly grab whatever they can out of the cruiser and retreat into the lines of backed up traffic. Young folks emerge from the crowd and start to jump on the police cruiser, kicking and smashing out its windows. A rare moment of cross-racial solidarity sets in as people dance on the cruiser: Latin@s, Black folks, Asians and whites are tearing down well-guarded day to day boundaries. Owning and making real our shared fury at the police, we find a crucial point of political intersection and act on it.
A masked kid approaches the group around the dumpster on the other side of the street:
Should I spark this shit?
Yeah go for it
The dumpster catches fire and is passed from hand to hand before being rammed into the police vehicle, which at this point is almost entirely destroyed. The crowd starts to rock the police car trying to overturn it. OPD riot cops who have been gearing up a block away spring into action and advance on the crowd opening fire with tear gas, bean bag rounds and other projectiles. People are yelling and running.
Our numbers fall to 200 as we sprint away through Chinatown towards the skyscrapers of Broadway, the main street in downtown Oakland. We pull dumpsters, newspaper boxes and garbage into the street to prevent the police from catching up and charging.