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Oakland’s get tough policy in response to protests

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In this May 23, 2015 photo, people march during a protest in Oakland, Calif. About 100 people took to the streets in Oakland on Saturday night to protest against what they said was the city's crackdown on nighttime demonstrations. (Leah Millis/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTOG & CHRONICLE; MAGS OUT; NO SALES
In this May 23, 2015 photo, people march during a protest in Oakland, Calif. About 100 people took to the streets in Oakland on Saturday night to protest against what they said was the city’s crackdown on nighttime demonstrations. (Leah Millis/San Francisco Chronicle via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTOG & CHRONICLE; MAGS OUT; NO SALES


The city of Oakland has released information on its new get–tough policy, which is a response to recent protests across the city. CBS News reported that the new policy, implemented by the mayor’s office, is intended to reduce property damage and violence.

The policy was established to monitor street protests in the wake of high profile protests such as the recent one in Baltimore, which caused days of rioting, damage, and destruction.

On Sunday night, police officers monitored several protests throughout downtown Oakland. As the protesters marched several blocks, the Oakland Police Department tried to handle disturbances swiftly and efficiently.

In this May 23, 2015 photo, police grab protester Erika Bell, left, for an arrest from sitting arms linked, with Alicia B. during a rally and march in Oakland, Calif. About 100 people took to the streets in Oakland on Saturday night to protest against what they said was the city's crackdown on nighttime demonstrations. (Leah Millis/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTOG & CHRONICLE; MAGS OUT; NO SALES
In this May 23, 2015 photo, police grab protester Erika Bell, left, for an arrest from sitting arms linked, with Alicia B. during a rally and march in Oakland, Calif. About 100 people took to the streets in Oakland on Saturday night to protest against what they said was the city’s crackdown on nighttime demonstrations. (Leah Millis/San Francisco Chronicle via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT PHOTOG & CHRONICLE; MAGS OUT; NO SALES

Initially, about 100 and 150 protesters began marching. From there, 15 to 20 disbanded the larger protest to start their own smaller one.

Johnna A. Watson, a spokesperson for the local police department, said that there were no injuries, though 19 protesters received citations and four were arrested. They joined protesters from the night before, who were arrested for refusing to disband at the police’s request.

News outlets, including the Oakland Tribune, and CBS San Francisco, reported that the new policy was the brainchild of Oakland Mayor, Libby Schaaf, although the mayor said that she did not change existing policy. Rather, the police are merely enforcing what is already there.

Mayor Schaaf stated that the police have the right to remove protesters from the streets and order them onto sidewalks. The enforcement came after Oakland experienced several demonstrations over the past year, some of which turned violent.

With the new policy, the mayor is certain that the police will be able to combat property destruction, as well as eradicating other mayhem that has led to rioting elsewhere.

“We have not changed our policy,” Schaaf said during an interview with CBS San Francisco. “We have not enacted any new laws. We’re just making better use of the laws that we currently have.”

The policy also came in the wake of protests on May 1. These protests turned violent, and caused a large amount of property damage to businesses in Oakland’s automobile sales district. Some of the same businesses had already incurred loss recently when citizens of Oakland took to the streets to protest police conduct towards minorities.

The first of the latest demonstrations were held on Thursday. Demonstrators said they were surprised when police attempted to break up their protest, and order them off the streets, onto the sidewalk. After ending their protests, organizers planned another demonstration on Saturday against the enforcement of this new policy.

Cat Brooks, who helped organize the protests, was critical of the police response stating, “You can’t run roughshod over people because they’re protesting your oppression. You can’t push us off the streets.”

Brooks and other community organizers are planning more protests in the near future.

In the meantime, Rachel Lederman, one of the lawyers who helped the City of Oakland craft their policies for crowd control, found the new policy initiative to be confusing.

“It doesn’t make any sense because saying that marches have to be on the sidewalk has absolutely no relationship to impending property damage that might occur,” said Lederman, a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild. “Obviously that would happen on a sidewalk, not a street.”

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