AFRICANGLOBE – Protesters briefly shut down two major freeways, vandalized police cars and looted businesses in downtown Oakland, smashing windows at cell phone stores, car dealerships, restaurants and convenience stores on a second night of protests Tuesday night.
The crowd briefly shut down Interstates 580 and 980 on a second night of protests against a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a White police officer in the fatal shooting of a Black teenager, but Oakland police officers were able to clear them from the traffic lanes.
The group carrying banners and signs then marched through downtown Oakland streets with police motorcycles and patrol cars trailing closely behind, their emergency lights flashing.
The protesters, some wearing bandanas over their faces, spray-painted messages against the police and illegible graffiti. They then set several trash bins on fire across Telegraph Avenue and began breaking windows in businesses nearby. A least two businesses, a cell phone store and a paint shop, were looted.
The Oakland Police Department estimated there were 350 people participating in the protests.
The California Highway Patrol said arrests were made but gave no details.
In San Francisco, about 40 demonstrators holding signs that read “Arrest Darren Wilson” protested in the Mission District.
Earlier Tuesday, Oakland officials said police officers were ready to stop protesters from vandalizing businesses and highway patrol officers were on standby in case demonstrators try to shut down the freeway again.
“The Oakland Police Department is committed to facilitating peaceful protests, but we will not tolerate assaults on our staff or vandalism and destruction,” he said.
As during previous nationwide protests that accompanied the Occupy Wall Street movement and the verdict in Florida’s George Zimmerman case, the response to the Ferguson decision Monday night produced vandalism and clashes with officers in Oakland that turned violent in some spots, while other large cities saw relative calm.
Hundreds of demonstrators shut down part of a freeway, hurled bottles, concrete and rocks at police, broke merchants’ windows and set small fires, Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent said Tuesday. Three police officers were injured, including one who suffered a cut to the head and a minor concussion after being hit by a brick, Whent said.
No serious injuries to protesters were reported, but 43 people were arrested Monday night.
Mayor Jean Quan praised the 300 officers who were assigned to monitor the protest for remaining professional and showing restraint as they faced the sometimes hostile crowds.
“I understand the anger and the fear that some young Black people have about their relations with the police,” Quan said. “It’s something this city has worked on, and on which we have made significant progress.”
A grand jury declined to indict 28-year-old police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis.
Last year, after Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, protesters in Oakland took to the streets three consecutive nights. They threw fireworks and bottles at police officers and smashed store windows.
Damage in Oakland was even worse in 2010 when white transit police officer Johannes Mehserle was acquitted of murder and convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the murder of Oscar Grant, an unarmed Black man who was shot dead on a train platform the previous year. After that announcement, nearly 80 people were arrested after a night that saw rioters using metal bats to break store windows, setting fires and looting.
B: Kristin J. Bender