As a general strike unfolds today in Oakland, we reflect on the events and struggles that have carried us to the current moment. Below is a timeline of recent events in Oakland, and video from an October 29th Speakout Against Police Violence, organized by the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality & State Repression, Berkeley Copwatch, and Raider Nation/Bring the Ruckus.
The Long Arc of the Oakland Rebellion:
A Timeline of Recent Events
January 1st – Oscar Grant is shot in the back by BART transit cop Johannes Mehserle while lying, face-down and restrained, on a platform at the Fruitvale station. Rather than administer first aid, BART police attempt to confiscate cellphones from passers-by who filmed the shooting. Several versions of the footage make it out, and are viewed by hundreds of thousands on Youtube.
January 7th – Mounting anger at the murder of Oscar Grant and the lack of response by public officials leads community organizations and others to call a rally at the Fruitvale BART station. Popular anger spills over into the streets in an hours-long rebellion which sees property damage and police repression. When Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums attempts to calm crowds, he is heckled and booed. Police are under orders to hold back and allow the people to express their anger, making arrests late in the night.
January 14th – In an effort to head-off further rebellions, Dellums and State Attorney General Jerry Brown lean on the local District Attorney, who calls for Mehserle’s arrest. Mehserle is found across the border in Nevada and returned to Oakland. The people are not satisfied: a second night of rebellions breaks out.
January 30th – After Mehserle’s arraignment on murder charges, the community demands that he not be released on bail. When bail is announced, a third night of rebellions breaks out. The police have had enough, and repression is more severe.
March 21st – At a traffic stop, parolee Lovelle Mixon decides not to go back to prison. He shoots two OPD officers dead. When others storm the apartment of Mixon’s sister seeking revenge, he opens up with an SKS from within a closet, killing two more. The OPD uses the killings and the public funerals the next week to successfully regain the upper-hand in the city.
A number of organizations emerge from and participate in the upsurge following the Oakland Rebellions of January 2009, coming together in the formation of the Oakland Assembly, a directly democratic body which pushes the struggle forward throughout 2009 and into 2010.
June 2nd – City Council and courts approve a repressive and racist gang injunction in North Oakland.
July 8th – Expecting an unsatisfactory verdict, popular organizations centered in the Oakland Assembly mobilize on the day of the Mehserle verdict. The city is put on lockdown and federal agencies are visibly present as the verdict is released: involuntary manslaughter, which means 2-4 years max. Thousands have gathered for a speakout in the middle of the intersection at 14th and Broadway, and as anger rises at the injustice, protesters confront police and loot nearby stores. OPD holds a line, allowing the looting in a successful strategy to avoid further confrontation, before later clearing the intersection. “Progressive” mayoral candidates Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan gain public attention by standing between the protesters and police. As a result, both are formally investigated by OPD.
November 5th – Mehserle’s sentencing hearing is delayed in a clear attempt to outmaneuver the resistance. Judge Robert Perry unilaterally lifts the gun enhancement, sentencing Mehserle to the minimum: 2 years. Outraged Oaklanders take to the streets, before Police Chief Batts fabricates the claim that an officer’s gun was grabbed as an excuse to kettle the march and mass arrest all those present.
November 10th – Jean Quan is elected mayor of Oakland in a three-way race against opposition from police over a demand that they pay toward their own retirement.
June 14th – Johannes Mehserle, Oscar Grant’s murderer, is released from prison. Amid discussions of expanding gang injunctions to the heavily Latino Fruitvale district, Mayor Quan is unclear about her stance.
October 5th – Mayor Quan casts the tiebreaker vote in City Council to table controversial anti-crime plans, including a citywide curfew and more gang injunctions. Quan suggests she might be open to the curfew.
October 10th – Occupy Oakland established at Frank Ogawa Plaza, which is symbolically renamed “Oscar Grant Plaza.” The Plaza is located at 14th and Broadway, the symbolic gathering point of many of the 2009 rebellions.
October 11th – OPD Police Chief Anthony Batts tenders his resignation, citing resistance from the office of Mayor Quan. Howard Jordan is named Interim Chief.
October 15th – Mayor Quan presents an anti-crime plan at a “crime summit,” which includes increased patrols of high-crime neighborhoods.
October 20th – Mayor Jean Quan signs on to OPD plan to clear the Plaza.
October 24th – Citing a lack of support for public safety and the need for more police on the streets, pro-police opponents file paperwork to begin the process of recalling Quan. The SF Chronicle reports that aides now say she will support a curfew.
October 25th – At 4:45am, the Occupy camp is cleared by a massive deployment of 800 riot police with brutal beatings and tear gas dispensed. At 4pm, thousands converge at the Oakland Public Library and vow to retake the plaza. Police attack a large march with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades. Several are shot with rubber bullets, and two-tour Iraq Marine Vet Scott Olson suffers a fractured skull after being shot at close range with a tear gas canister. When others attempt to rescue him, police are seen throwing flash-bang grenades into the crowd.
October 26th – Amid widespread disgust, Quan backs down and allows protesters to return to Oscar Grant Plaza, the grassy areas of which have been fenced off. A General Assembly of 2-3,000 votes by a margin of 97% to call for a General Strike on Wednesday, November 2nd. Fences are removed and turned into public art sculptures.
October 27th – A General Assembly of 1,500 approves a call for an anti-police speakout on Saturday, October 29th.
October 28th – In an effort to regain control of the city, Mayor Jean Quan attempts to speak at the Occupy Oakland General Assembly, but is booed off the stage.