OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Saying protests that turn violent need to end, the Mayor of Oakland has come up with a new strategy, by enforcing rules that ban marches on the streets at night.
Close to 200 people marched from Frank Ogawa Plaza to the Police Department around 8:00 p.m. Thursday night, in a loud protest. Protest organizer Cat Brooks said as it got dark, the police surrounded them.
“You are no longer allowed to march at night. You have to be on the sidewalk. Otherwise, we will cite you and/or arrest you,” Brooks said. “That is what we were told.”
Brooks has been leading protests in Oakland for the last six years, she said it was the first time Oakland police banned marches in the street. She calls it a night time curfew.
“We have a right to peacefully assemble. That is a Constitutional right, we have the right. It doesn’t say you have the right to peacefully assemble until 8 o’clock,” Brooks told KPIX 5.
But the mayor and the police chief say it’s absolutely not a curfew, and people can protest at night as long as they stay on the sidewalk.
“We believe keeping people on the sidewalk, that’s safer for everybody. That doesn’t infringe upon anybody’s First Amendment right. They absolutely can be there on the sidewalk,” Police Chief Sean Whent said.
Mayor Libby Schaaf said, “We’ve not changed our policy. We have not enacted any new laws. We’re just making better use of the laws that we currently have.”
The city said marching in the middle of the street without a permit has never been legal, but they just overlooked it in the past. They won’t anymore. They said unpermitted marches in the street after sunset will no longer be allowed.
“Prevent vandalism, to be a better job protecting property, but also to facilitate free speech,” the mayor said.
But many business owners still cleaning up from the May Day vandalism said while it’s a step in the right direction, it’s not good enough.
“If these people decide to they want to take pipes to windows, I don’t think it’s going to stop them,” said Nancy Groom, an Oakland business owner.