Oakland, Friday, May 29

An eyewitness account from last night’s protests in Oakland against the police murder of George Floyd.


Around 5,000 protesters gathered in downtown Oakland last night at Oscar Grant Plaza near City Hall, a sizable crowd for a protest that was informally organized with no discernible leading organization. The crowd, mostly composed of young people representing a variety of racial backgrounds, eventually took to the streets marching to the police station with chants of “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter.”

After encountering cops in full riot gear at the heavily blocked police station, around half of the protesters took to the highway, blocking Highway 880 and the other half circled back downtown, with some in the crowd spray painting office buildings with graffiti, lighting fireworks, and setting ablaze trash cans. Spray-painted messages read, “ACAB,” “RIP Oscar Grant,” and “RIP George Floyd.”

The mood throughout the night was largely peaceful, sometimes energetic with people dancing in the street. But the expectation of a confrontation with the cops was on everyone’s mind. Around 9:30 p.m., a guy in a bandana started breaking the windows of a Starbucks. Shortly thereafter, the cops ruled the assembly unlawful and started throwing tear gas into the crowd.

The crowd dispersed across downtown. Three helicopters flew overhead late into the night. A group of protesters started a fire in downtown Walgreens and people directed their anger at car dealerships and the downtown Target. By the end of the night, 22 people were arrested and a fatal drive-by shooting of a contracted security officer dominated the news media. Despite this, it is unlikely that the protests will stop anytime soon and two events are already planned for the weekend.

Abigail Torre is a member of East Bay DSA and DSA's Bread & Roses caucus.