A Nights Recap (Full Photo Gallery at the Bottom of Post)
[Feel free to skip the quilted together recap… what I really want to say, is in the 2nd segment]
Last night was a hell of a night. Day three of the nightly protests in Oakland and I couldn’t miss jumping in the mix. I regret missing it the other night.
This go round, I meet up with Pete Rosas and the one and only Scott Strazzante, both previous guests of our show StreetPX. So, good times already.
As for the night, it flowed back and forth, between interesting and exciting, that’s for sure.
Over all, the climate was powder keg ready, but the top never fully popped off. Such as it did on Wednesday night (11/9).
The protesters were about a thousand deep, gathering at Frank Ogawa Plaza. This is a personal estimate and possibly inaccurate, because, math. It started off with a pitch, because as we stood by awaiting the march, the cops tackled someone to the ground. Immediately following this opening crowd vs police (in riot gear) stand off, the march began.
Quick Comment: It was great seeing the actions of the crowd leaders, as they moved along the group with epic passion…. and the crowd itself, as they feed off there energy. Also, when some folks tried to tear shit up, the group corrected them or eventually allowed removal. (more on that later)
The path lead up and through Telegraph Avenue, with various cop forced “choke-points” along the way. A practice I honestly fail to see the benefit in, as it only results in riling the crowd up further, creating focused rage. I was front and center in most of these moments and on the last, they began trying to convince people to go through one by one (or ten at a time later). A few people confusingly and VERY cautiously walked through, but the crowd held fast and refused to move until the police line broke. Which it eventually did.
Shortly before this final choke point, the crowd attempted to veer off and up to the Interstate ramp. See, you have to understand, this is a go-to thing out here in the Bay and has been for a long time. During a big protest, traffic (interstate traffic specifically) will be, let’s just say, inhibited… greatly.
As we came under the over pass, the crowd approached and “opened up” the fence. As the sections came down, many made a B-Line straight up the dirt embankment and onto the main road above. Pete (who I caught back up with) and I had a brief discussion by using some crafty, expressive eyebrow work over all the noise and agreed… up the hill. As we ascended, we both got caught up documenting some side action and out of the corner of my eye, a squad of riot gear cops began a dash from below and the crowd that had already got to the top came hauling ass back down. As per the buddy system, a swift nudge to Pete and then we were running too. Best not ask questions, just move.
After trekking up through Telegraph, we veered off and started back to Oakland a couple of streets up. this is when shit got real for a moment.
Pete and I started photographing a broken window and along came a massive boom…
Yep, we just got tear gassed.
A wonderfully horrific mist that fell upon us with great unpleasantness. The inexcusable part of this being, nothing heinous was going on at the time (at least within the proximity), so the gassing was certainly a surprise event. It definitely made the tongue and eyes sting, but I dosed my bandana in some water offered to us by another protester – kudos by the way, you awesome random stranger – I tied on the new cloth mask and carried forward.
Just after the tear gas, we came upon some insanity, as a young girl was yanked off the sidewalk and leapt upon by the police. This and the gassing are the two points that I call foul on the police. I heard later from someone in the crowd, that she was one of the teens that joined the march and after the gassing, she was getting loud but not belligerent when they laid her to the pavement. I did not see this part, so I cannot confirm. But I did capture the arrest, as they zip tied and immediately dragged her away.
Even after the gassing, things still remained civil, until a few blocks up, when some random asshole tried to drop kick a window. The group took the stage though and stopped him. But in doing so, one of the ladies that pushed him back was punched by him. Thankfully the police pounced on him and he was soon gone. (See Segment 2).
The crowd got crazy for a moment and I turned to try and talk a few down that were charging forward (involuntary action moment for me, I do not advise this). I received some choice words at first. Because things get sensitive when people are worked up, unaware of what happened and the police now being the ones everyone’s attention is on.. Nevertheless, the group realized what he did, let it go and began to move on.
We grabbed a few more great shots of the people chanting, marching, a couple of cats tagging the road and soon decided it was time to call it. So we detoured off to a local bar for some drinks and a recap. The dwindling mass circled us a couple more times, allowing some window shots, heard a couple more sirens go by, but it all seemed to dissipate after that. A couple of beers, some good conversation and a Lyft later, I was home and starting in on editing photos and writing this…
… I only just now finished. 🙂
Segment 2 – Public Perception of Protests and the Judgement on Protesters
Now, this is where my post rotates the topic a bit. Because here I want to talk about something that is troubling to me and I want to get it out there. for anyone listening.
Many of you out there are only hearing about the destruction and burning of the cities.
But here is something I need to say for those not living in these cities, those of you out there reliant only on second hand accounts. Those of you seeing only the fires and the broken glass and lunacy.
This is NOT representative of the people marching these streets.
The problematic few, can be summed down to a small percentage of the whole. Most of these few, participate (often late) simply for the mere opportunity for mayhem. Not for any stance or issue… but destruction……others get wrapped up in it, like a drunken friend that, for some reason, always wants to fight or randomly break shit. So, a few of that few are like that, except it’s not alcohol, it’s anger.
See, I have participated and documented a number of protests in this area and trust me, the Bay area doesn’t fuck around when it comes to demonstrations. Hell, all the high schoolers straight up organized a walk-out, then the next day, marched throughout the Bay area. I woke up to chants and footsteps yesterday morning.
The truth is, most of the people are invested in PEACEFUL protesting. Always against negative actions and at times, actively stopping it.
As I noted about, one young lady took a punch tonight while her and a group tried to stop one lone dumbass from breaking windows in a storefront on Telegraph.
Additionally, these end up very well organized and lead by intelligent, bold, bullhorn welding shepherds of 1000’s. A group whose numbers tip the scales against my home County.
Look, in this climate, it is easy to only see the nastiness that is discussed about it all. And there is nastiness that has occurred.
The thing is, we mustn’t turn our eyes away from the overlying message being overshadowed by a few fools.
These leaders, the greater majority of the crowds, these people are not bands of criminals. These are engaging, competent human beings. People who are also pissed off and demanding to be heard.
On first glance, it is very easy to assume the low hanging fruit explanation. That, they’re “whining” about an election which, under our democratic republic law, did legally elect Donald Trump.
But the reality is, there is a new found mainstream comfort with hateful taboo, at times dangerous comfort. These people protesting, by and large, are not only angry, but legitimately fearful.
We now have kids in Pennsylvania walking through their halls, screaming “white power” and spitting on kids of color. Grade schoolers of color, sobbing underneath the chants of “Go Home” and “Build the Wall”… Teenage girls having their chest squeezed and the assailant saying it’s now their right to do so. Muslims being attacked in the streets…. and that is just a taste of what has happened in the last 48 hours alone.
It is not Trump, the man, that people are only lashing out at. It’s what he represents. It’s that gut punch realization that our country has validated the deep dark pit of human capacity for being downright cruel. To be hateful, just because… and not simply without fear, but with unsettling glee.
It’s easy to criticize and to judge, but with such a thing being the new norm, that is not good. That is very, very not good and when the people without power or money want to express their disdain for that supposed, “new norm”, then a protest is the first step.
No one hears you when you speak your mind at the mirror. Everyone can hear when 1000’s do it in the streets of the largest cities in America.
I ask, condemn the actions of the few and try and see the message here, because this cannot be lost… This is a stressful time for everyone. Please take a couple of breaths and really look at the way things are right now. Look upon what is happening, not just in the streets, but in schools and on playgrounds…
Children are like canaries. If they sour, then poison has crept into the mine.
There is something very wrong with the world today.
These folks are marching the streets, blowing smoke rings with tear gas… bringing attention to an issue and starting a dialog….
If that is so inefficient, then tonight, ask yourself…
What did I do today?