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Days of Protest Spark Mixed Reactions, Oaklanders Question Who Leads Destruction

Saskia Hatvany



Thousands of people took to Oakland streets beginning May 29 for what was largely a peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minn., who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Oakland protester Taylor energizes a growing crowd as they chant “No Justice, No Peace,” at Frank Ogawa Plaza on May 29. Thousands marched in Oakland on Friday protesting the death of George Floyd and demanding an end to police brutality. Photo by Michelle Snider.

By 11:00 p.m. on the first night of protests in the Bay Area, Twitter was filled with videos of looting and fires in Downtown Oakland. Walgreens on Broadway was looted and there were reports of a small fire inside. CVS on Broadway was also looted and the city center Starbucks was set on fire.

A Honda CR-V was driven off the Honda of Oakland showroom in front of a large crowd, and the brand new Target store on Broadway was smashed up, looted and is now to be closed indefinitely.

On Twitter, some were outraged at the looting and highlighted that the protests were mostly peaceful. A Chamber of Commerce representative said on May 30 that “a small band of well-mobilized vandals” had once again targeted the city’s merchants and most vulnerable people.”


“We will not let out-of-town individuals undermine this legitimate protest and destroy our local economy,” said Barbara Leslie, president and CEO of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

Most businesses targeted were corporations, but some Black-owned and smaller businesses were targeted as well, including Oakland shop  Queen Hippe Gypsy, owned by Lillianna Ayers — a Black woman.

After nightfall on May 29, a crowd attempted to gain access to I-880, throwing water bottles at police officers and launching a flare that started a small grass fire. Others headed toward the Oakland Police Department (OPD) building on Broadway and took a knee as they were met with a line of police officers.

A crowd attempts to gain access to the 880 freeway. A flare was launched by the crowd and started a small grass fire. Photo by Saskia Hatvany.

OPD swiftly deemed the protest an “unlawful gathering” and allowed three minutes for protesters to disperse before launching tear-gas.

Meanwhile, several small groups split off and proceeded to break the windows of Chase and Wells Fargo banks and other businesses. Trash cans were dragged into the streets and some were set ablaze.

After midnight,  two federal officers were shot while on guard at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building at 1301 Clay St. One of them, Dave Patrick Underwood, succumbed to his injuries and died.

The shooting was called an “an act of domestic terrorism,” by Department of Homeland Security Acting Deputy Sec. Ken Cuccinelli at a Wash., D.C., news conference.

But California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that the shooting should not be quickly associated with the acts of peaceful protesters. “No one should rush to conflate this heinous act with the protests last night,” he said.

Protesters kneel peacefully in front of a line of Oakland Police on Monday, May 29. Police declared the protest an “unlawful assembly,” and allowed three minutes for people to disperse before unleashing tear gas. Photo by Michelle Snider. 

The looting continued throughout the weekend in downtown Oakland, Emeryville and the Fruitvale area, leading local officials to impose a curfew from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on Monday. Several peaceful daytime protests also occurred, including a caravan of over 1,000 cars around Lake Merritt, and a march down Broadway on Monday from Oakland Technical High School at 42nd street that ended at the Oakland Police Department on Seventh street.

Approximately 15,000 people attended the Monday student-led rally and march, according to Oakland police who observed from a helicopter.





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