Oakland rally in response to Charlottesville violence drawing thousands

OAKLAND — Thousands of people had descended upon Oakland by early Saturday night in a hastily organized counterprotest to the violence in Charlottesville, Va. Saturday morning, with a group of perhaps 100 protesters briefly blocking Interstate 580 at Grand Avenue before a smaller group returned downtown and broke up about 11 p.m..

The final 50 to 75 protesters breaking up near the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway, with no notable skirmishes or vandalism beyond the brief closure of I-580.

Members of the Occupy Movement had called for a Saturday night rally in downtown Oakland in response to the bloody clashes during a pro-white rally in Charlottesville, Va. that left one person dead and more injured, and by 7:45 p.m, a few thousand had gathered. In social media messages Saturday afternoon the group asked for people to meet at the intersection of Broadway and 14th Street, the epicenter of many street protests in Oakland in recent years.

“Charlottesville, we’ve got your back. Bay Area united against white supremacy. Emergency Solidarity Demo,” one of the messages said, announcing the demonstration.

Early crowds were chanting “we say no to hate,” and had gathered around speakers with microphones. Some held signs that said “solidarity forever” and “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

A consistent theme among speakers early at Saturday night’s event was an upcoming Aug. 27  “No to Marxism in America” alt-right rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, and there were many calls for confrontation. Recent clashes there were bloody.

Oakland police reform activist Kat Brooks gave an impassioned speech calling for protesters to stand up to a planned alt-right march.

“We are the vanguard of the resistance,” she shouted to crowd of several thousand people before the marching began..

Still, some students were handing out fliers for a “rally against hate” that same day (Aug. 27), calling it a chance “to speak peacefully to each other about the world.”

The freeway was shut down briefly in both directions just west of Grand Avenue about 9:45 p.m., with some protesters setting off fireworks. California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers threatened to arrest marchers who didn’t clear from the traffic lanes, and freeway traffic was moving again by 10 p.m. At that point, between 100 and 200 protesters were marching along Grand Avenue toward Lake Merritt and downtown.

By 10:45, the marchers — 50 to 75 at this point — were stopped at 14th Street and Broadway, with police imploring people to go home. Some marchers were shouting obscenities at police, but aside from that and the I-580 blockage, there was no notable violence or vandalism reported.

Earlier, at about 8:15 p.m., a group of 500 people, led by protesters wearing all black clothing and with bandannas over their faces, had started marching west on Broadway and then onto 14th Street, marching into traffic. Cars were stopped, their drivers unsure what to do; police were trying to get ahead of the marchers to block off roads leading to Jack London Square.

But by 9:40 p.m., about 200 protesters, after marching around Lake Merritt, went onto MacArthur Boulevard (and blocked traffic) before most of them looped back to get onto the freeway.



Oakland resident Susan Bowyer, who was among the crowd Saturday evening holding a sign that read ‘White supremacists cheer Trump’s response to Charlottesville violence.’ She said she wanted to denounce the Charlottesville rally.

“I couldn’t imagine not showing up to support,” Bowyer said. “When people pour out into the street, it’s a way of showing support. I wish it made a difference in the minds of the white supremacists, but it won’t.”

David Cushman, an Oakland resident, said he came out to the protest after watching the news about the Charlottesville rally that struck  him as “horrifying” and “alienating.”

“I was thankful to have a place to show support for the people who are standing up to the Charlottesville (white supremacist) rallies,” Cushman said, holding a sign that read “America First = Fascism.”

Of the Oakland rally, Cushman said, “I think people can feel like there’s an outlet and can continue to build a protest against Donald Trump and his white supremacist administration.”



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