Oakland police arrest more than 40 in Ferguson protest (w/video)
OAKLAND — Once again, Oakland became a focal point of spin-off protests nationwide when hundreds of demonstrators shut down part of a major freeway, hurled bottles at police, broke merchants' windows and set small fires after a grand jury's decision not to indict a white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man.
Like previous protests that followed the Occupy Oakland movement and the verdict in Florida's George Zimmerman case, Oakland demonstrators became violent whereas other large cities saw relative calm.
No serious injuries to protesters were reported Monday night, but at least 40 people were arrested after a night of riots. Several police officers were injured, a police spokeswoman said, but she did not elaborate.
A grand jury on Monday declined to indict 28-year-old police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis.
Before the sun set in Oakland on Monday, the demonstrators were calm. But as darkness fell, dozens of people got around police who tried to block freeway entrances and ran onto the westbound lanes of Interstate 580, milling around cars, holding signs and raising their hands in the air.
At one point, protesters marched onto westbound Interstate 580, bringing traffic to a standstill before climbing the center divider and stopping cars in the eastbound direction.
"It's unfortunate that some demonstrators (decided) to close down the freeway, placing themselves, our officers and many uninvolved motorists at great risk," Mayor Jean Quan said in a statement.
Traffic, at times, was at a standstill. Protesters were corralled until police cleared the freeway and opened one lane to traffic. Minutes later, a large crowd jumped onto the eastbound lanes of the same freeway, again bringing traffic to a halt.
The crowd grew to at least 500 as protesters took over an intersection in front of Oakland City Hall and chanted "No justice, no peace! No racist police!"
About three blocks from Oakland City Hall, a Starbucks, Smart & Final store and MetroPCS shop had their windows broken, leaving the Starbucks closed Tuesday. Elsewhere in downtown, garbage cans were set on fire, and buildings were tagged with graffiti.
Police have said they often see the same protesters over and over again, with many coming from outside the city to join the cause of the day.
Last year, in the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, protests in Oakland continued for three nights and grew increasingly violent. People threw fireworks and bottles at police officers, smashed store windows and burned U.S. flags. A restaurant waiter was hit in the head with a hammer.
Damage in Oakland was even worse in 2010 when white transit police officer Johannes Mehserle was acquitted of murder and convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the slaying of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was face-down on a train platform on Jan. 1, 2009, when he was shot. After that announcement, nearly 80 people were arrested after a night that saw rioters using metal bats to break store windows, setting fires and looting.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement that she was "disappointed" in Monday's grand jury decision and called for a peaceful response in Oakland.
Quan said police will work "diligently" Tuesday and in the coming weeks to ensure safety if future protests arise.
In San Francisco, a few dozen people in the Mission District chanted "No justice, no peace!" and in Sacramento, about 75 people marched through the streets and blocked traffic.
In Los Angeles, police said three people were arrested: one for assaulting an officer, one for failure to disperse and one for public drunkenness. No injuries or property damage was reported. Officers fired foam rounds to keep demonstrators from returning to a freeway.
Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.