documentary photography // protests
Following Donald Trump’s victory in the Presidential election in November 2016, US citizens took to the streets in force and often, to express their disapproval with the state of the union.
This featured “Day” is part of an on-going project to share what I see, while covering various protests throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
November 10, 2016
Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA
Broadway Street / Telegraph Street
Estimated Crowd Size: ~1000
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 the energy. Also, when some folks tried to tear shit up, the group corrected them or even assisted removal. (more on that later)
Chants rang out, signs were waving… but I knew this can always change on a dime. So we kept our heads on a swivel and another shooter within eyeshot. Always good to have a photo buddy on nights like this.
We soon veered off Broadway and onto Telegraph, weaving in and around along the way, grabbing shots where we could. Eventually however, the police began conducting a rather odd and troubling practice of choke-pointing the crowd. They would all fan out across the street, SWAT geared up, batons in hand, keeping the group from moving forward. The did this on multiple occasions and only proved to rile the crowd up further, creating focused rage.
Arrests during the evening: ~4
By this point, the group had reached the overpass of i-580 and had began to slow. Some rumblings began from some in the group about scaling the embankment to halt traffic.
This suggestion began to gain steam and soon a large mass of the original crowd rushed the fence and began tearing it down, panel by panel.
Soon, they had an open path and much of the mass poured through the newly punched hole, up the hill and onto the road. It was this moment when Pete and myself made eye contact, shared a nod and followed suit.
This is when a photo buddy is very handy. We were halfway up when the crowd turned and quickly descended the embankment, heading right at us… simultaneously. I caught a glimpse of a large SWAT team heading our way from below. I gave a tug along my friends backpack and together we turned tail and ran before we got stuck in a bad situation.
Once at ground level again, the choke point thickened and the crowd quickly swelled to respond in kind. Which offered a great opportunity to run along the front line, directly between the police and the protesters.
Before the line evaporated, the police began trying to convince people to go through one by one (or ten at a time later), which was quite confusing. A few puzzled people cautiously walked through, but the crowd held fast and refused to move until the police line broke. Which it eventually did.
Go where the people are!
As the march moved forward, the mass detoured in and through the residential area. Which actually went wonderfully and peacefully. a few policing the cars and fences from damage. People were even cheering from their windows and chanting along the the crowd. It was a wild sensation.
You don’t forget the taste of CS Gas!
As we started back toward downtown on Broadway, this is where things got real!
There was a moment when I was off to the side, photographing the only broken window I had found, when from behind, a loud “Tha-POOF!” rang out. As I spun around, I saw a vast green cloud of unpleasantness rain down upon us.
CS Gas is no joke. It gets into all the places. Eyes, ears, throat, nose… everything and everything stings. After I registered what had occurred, I quickly tied on my bandana, just as I saw an outline of a welcome stranger, arms full up with bottles of water. He began offering these out to the crowd and I happily snatched one for myself.
It’s completely unknown as to what set this off. But there was no proof of violent pushback from the protesters toward the police, but it set off a chain of short lived events. As I washed out my eyes with this newly acquired nectar of the gods and soaked my bandana up good and proper, a young girl (barely mid teens) sitting on the curb, likewise nursing her burning eyes was tackled face down and zip tied.
Fists begin to fly and crowds get rowdy!
As the anger at the arrest began to subside, the soon crowd shifted back into formation and forward. It must be noted here, that the crowd was well adept and active in policing themselves. Protecting cars and trash cans as we passed through the residential area and stopping the rowdy types, as they broke off, intent on busting up a window.
It was however, during one of these “break off moments”, where some injuries were traded among the protesters. Hell, nearly myself included.
A member of the group was seen heaving a kick at a large window and a few other members descended to push him back. In doing this, the guy hauled off and right crossed a nearby young girl. Bedlam broke out for a bit, as the police leapt in and tacked him to the ground. I was front and center at the moment this occurred and as I turned to document the crowds reaction, I found myself in a very precarious situation. Most did not witness this assault and as such, assumed the police had overstepped. This compounded with the previous arrest of the young girl, and now they were ready to pounce.
Before I could stop myself, I yell out, “He punched a girl.. Stop! He punched a girl!”… My hands outstretch in desperate hope, that I quickly develop psychic powers and push them back with the power of my mind. Seriously, I don’t know why I did this and generally do not recommend it.
The crowd turned on me in a flash. Thankfully, a few folks nearby backed my play and they all soon dispersed and moved on. Here it must be said, the group also immediately showed an oddly Memento like ability to forget the situation.
A rather interesting moment, to say the least… but pretty much the last of any noteworthy of the night.