OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Thousands marched through the streets of Oakland Wednesday night, hoping to ask Mayor Libby Schaaf directly to defund the police department.
“We have been defunding education for years,” said 17-year-old Jessica Ramos, who was one of the march organizers. “We’re not saying to cut the police, abolish the police. We’re just saying to relocate those funds into different communities and invest them into our education, into our social services and into our youth.”READ MORE: UPDATE: Many in East Bay Still Without Power
Protesters marched peacefully for more than 2 miles and arrived at a house they believed to be Schaaf’s home. But the mayor did not make an appearance and it was not entirely clear whether the protesters were at the correct home.
Schaaf did send a statement to Oakland voters.
“We agree that investments in education, health, housing security and economic wellbeing are the most powerful ways to advance safety in Oakland,” she said. “We recognize a growing group of people — especially people of color — feel police presence and response compromise their sense of safety.”
But, since Oakland citizens make more than a 100,000 9-1-1 calls each year, Schaaf insisted that defunding is not the answer.READ MORE: Menlo Park Man Stabbed at Party
“We know that Oakland Police prevent crime and suffering, save lives, and bring resolution and justice to those who’ve been harmed,” the mayor’s statement continued. “Oakland can ill afford to further defund its police department, as we already have the lowest officer-per-crime staffing levels of any police department in America.”
Dwayne Davis, 17, another march organizer, said he wanted Oakland city leaders to broaden their imagination.
“I’ve heard a lot of politicians say that defunding the police is unrealistic and that it would never work,” he said. “We don’t know what it’s like to live in a world where there are no police. We don’t know what it’s like to live in a world where we can have all the resources that we need so there’s no need to steal, no need to rob or anything like that.”
The Oakland police Department makes up about one fifth of the city’s budget. The mayor encouraged voters to contact their City Council representative if they want To suggest changes to the budget.MORE NEWS: One Dead, Three Wounded In Early Sunday Morning Shooting In Oakland's Uptown Neighborhood
“I understand the importance of the police. But at the same time, there’s a lot they do that isn’t helpful,” said Shaylah Ellis, an Oakland teacher. “I don’t feel like we’re saying they just shouldn’t get a penny. It’s just they get so much. And education is struggling.”