Trayvon Martin: One Injured, Six Arrested After Protesters Block Highways, Burn Flag
What began as a peaceful assembly in Frank Ogawa Plaza, soon escalated to a tense, tumultuous protest throughout downtown Oakland Monday night, where hundreds of protesters took to the streets to express their frustration with Saturday's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Monday marked the third night of protesting in the Bay Area, where Martin's death has been aligned with the memory of Oscar Grant, both serving as symbols of racial oppression and injustice for supporters and protesters.
Toward the end of the nearly six-hour protest, which covered about 10 miles through Oakland's downtown, several businesses were vandalized; protesters spray-painted and shattered storefronts again -- and they didn't stop there: fireworks were thrown into the crowds and at police officers, and freeway entrances and highway traffic were blocked.
By the end of the night, the cops unleashed flash bang grenades, a restaurant worker was injured, an American flag was burned, and six demonstrators were hauled to jail.
The #HoodiesUp demonstration began peacefully around 6 p.m. in Frank Ogawa Plaza, where the "community speak out" allowed close to 200 people to express their feelings over Saturday's verdict through spoken word, chants, and speeches.
Young children with bullhorns accompanied their parents at the plaza, then walked on the streets with people both young and old, speaking in English and Spanish, accompanied by the things that brought them the most comfort -- bunnies, dogs, bikes, and iPhones.
"Oakland is the home of revolution," yelled a protester. "Can't bring us down, we here to stay now."
After protesters headed south on Broadway, led by a group of young men on colorful scraper bikes, the tension started right there in front of the Oakland Police Department. Perhaps that's why protesters decided to detour; about 100 of them walked up the onramps along northbound I-880 around 7 p.m., bringing traffic to a dead stop. Some went as far as to attack commuters' cars and spray paint them, as if the commute on the 1-880 wasn't horrible enough.
"You're making normal people hate your cause, asshole," shouted one protester to a fellow protester who was kicking and shaking a commuter's vehicle.
The highway chaos continued until about 7:30 p.m. when protesters turned around and took their cause back to the surface streets, and the lanes reopened.
The protest, which seemed to have no clear direction or solid leadership, wended its way through Oakland's Chinatown, where demonstrators spray-painted cars and sometimes got aggressive with drivers who were trying to get out of the way. By 8:50 p.m., the group made its way to the Lake Merritt area where a masked protester took an American flag out of his bag, attached it to a pole, and lit a match to its end, setting the flag on fire as some people chanted "Trayvon! Trayvon!"
Police arrested a handful of people, officials say, on a range of felony and misdemeanor charges.