Sunday, January 18, 2015

Julia Carrie Wong Writes in USA Today: "Oakland-area Protests Disrupt Sunday Shoppers"

OAKLAND -- Protesters demonstrated at a Walmart store and a shopping center Sunday as part of a Martin Luther King Holiday weekend of activity opposing racism and police violence.
About 50 protesters held a "die-in" outside the Walmart, and later in the afternoon more than 100 people disrupted shoppers and stores at the outdoor Bay Street shopping center in Emeryville, Calif., near Oakland.
At the Walmart, some carried signs calling on the giant retail chain to pay workers $15 an hour and chanted "poverty is violence.'' At the shopping center, some protesters wore signs reading "Black Lives Matter'' while chanting and drumming inside several stores including Victoria's Secret and Forever 21.
Wei-Ling Huber, 45, of of El Sobrante in Contra Costa County, said she protested at a Baby Gap store with her two daughters, aged 8 and 10, and six other young children with their parents. Huber said the group sang "Happy Birthday" to Martin Luther King before joining the protest outside.
"A lot of stores are capitalizing on Martin Luther King by calling for people to shop at MLK Day sales," said Pete Woiwode, 32, of Oakland, who helped organize the protest. "But what he was actually calling for was an end to racism, militarism, and capitalism."
Protesters left the stores after about ten minutes to block traffic on Bay Street, chanting, "Stop shopping. Shut it down."
Emeryville police blocked traffic for the protests and did not take any enforcement action. The protesters disbanded around 3:45 p.m., about 45 minutes after starting the demonstration.
At the Walmart, some carried signs citing the death of John Crawford, who was shot and killed by police at a Walmart store in Ohio last August while holding a toy gun.
Billy Garner, 25, and his 10-year-old cousin DeJohn Davis, both of Oakland, attended the protest carrying a framed photograph of another cousin, Billy Vine, who they said was killed by an Oakland police officer in 1999.
"I feel like with everything that's going on it's unsafe for DeJohn to even be outside," Garner said. "I feel unsafe to come shop at Walmart now because the police might act irrationally."
Protesters said many Walmart employees are people of color who earn poverty wages. Walmart's wages have been the target of protests by unions and worker's rights groups for years.
The store remained open throughout the protest.
Several protests were scheduled for the San Francisco Bay area. A group calling itself the Anti-Police Terror Project planned an evening march through Oakland.
The demonstrations are part of a planned four-day protest over the Martin Luther King Day weekend to "reclaim King's legacy" of activism, the group said. Organizers of the protests hope to connect King's teachings on economic justice for black communities to the protest movement that has arisen in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The activities began Friday morning when protesters shut down San Francisco BART stations during the morning commute and a multiracial group of protesters chained themselves to two entrancesof the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland. Additional protests at the Alameda County courthouse in Oakland and on Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission District aimed to draw attention to the displacement of black and brown populations due to gentrification, the group said.
On Saturday, about 100 protesters in Oakland blocked traffic, marching from the Fruitvale BART station to a police substation.

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