#BreakTheCurfew: Mayor Libby Schaaf vs. The First Amendment
Oakland has become a police state, in direct violation of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.
This should not come as a surprise, as this is a city where in 2011, Oakland police used flash bang grenades and tear gas to disperse Occupy Oakland protesters:
The man that was being carried away in the video was Iraq War veteran, Scott Olsen, who was hit in the head with a teargas canister.
In another notable incident a few years earlier, BART police executed Oscar Grant while he was lying face down and handcuffed in the Fruitvale BART Station on New Years Day 2009:
Since these incidents, the Oakland Police have murdered more unarmed black people, including high school student Alan Blueford.
This past week represents the next chapter in the Oakland police state, as Mayor Libby Schaaf made a decision to ban all protests which gathered in the streets after sundown. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment, which protects the right to assemble in a city where the Police Department is so broken, that they were almost taken over by the federal government. According to Libby:
“Our intent is that by using better crowd management, not control, but management, that we can get demonstrators into safe spaces after sunset, once it’s dark, and this will better protect everyone’s safety, freedom of speech, and assembly,”
Of course this statement makes no sense, because banning street protests after dark obviously does not protect freedom of speech and the right to assembly. In fact, these foundations of the Constitution are actually supposed to be free from state intervention completely. If you have to ask the state permission to assemble, then clearly you are doing it wrong.
Would protesters obey these rules, and either disperse after sundown or protest on the sidewalk? Of course not, because banning protests never, ever actually prevents them from happening.
The first challenge came this past Thursday, when #SayHerName protests were held across the city, including Frank Ogawa Plaza, renamed Oscar Grant Plaza after being occupied by protesters in 2011. The gathering was peaceful, a memorial to black women who have been murdered by police, as part of a national day of action. However, once they took the streets after dark, the police became very confrontational, using sound cannons, threatening arrest, and declaring the assembly unlawful, just as the protest stepped into the street:
Rather than chilling protests, the aggressiveness of the Police, following Mayor Schaaf’s orders, led to more protests over Memorial Day weekend, as activists decided to #BreakTheCurfew, asserting their First Amendment rights. When viewing these intense photos, remember that these brave activists didn’t vandalize property, but were merely marching through the streets peacefully after the sun had gone down.
If the Mayor wanted to quell dissent with the protest curfew, she has certainly failed. The actions continued Sunday night, as local activists planned an “Interfaith Challenge to Protest Curfew”. While the night began peacefully, with a prayer circle and rally, a march began after dark, and once again the police were aggressive and made arrests:
We are in solidarity with all Oakland activists who defy this ridiculous protest curfew enacted by a supposedly liberal mayor. We must keep fighting until Governments, police forces, and other state actors realize that repression will only ignite the flames of resistance. If Schaaf and the Oakland Police Department want marches in downtown Oakland to end, they must address the grievances of protesters, working to transform the system that perpetuates the senseless killing of unarmed black people in their city. Not all police officers are bad human beings, but the officers who use their guns as a first defense against anyone resisting arrest, running away, or otherwise not obeying their orders, must be sent to prison for murder.
Until this happens, the curfew will continue to be broken.
Stay safe, Oakland.