(Editor’s note: The following piece written by OL writer/videographer Oriana Bolden is a first person account of events that took place Nov. 5 in downtown Oakland, following the sentencing of Johannes Mehserle in the Oscar Grant murder trial.)

As night fell arrests became free flowing. Information, not so much.

When the rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza was over, people began to walk down 14th Street. Several turns were made and folks ended up trying to walk from Oak Street down 10th Street. At this point protesters were roughly 15 blocks from where they began, largely without incident. Just past Laney College protesters first met with a line of riot police. An alternative route was discovered and folks were then able to get closer to International Blvd. From there every few blocks protesters were met with riot police.

People were trying to walk to Fruitvale BART station, they were walking peacefully. There were elders, youth, people in wheelchairs, reporters, no one was trying to be violent or cause any problems. In total there were approximately 200 people in route to the BART station where Oscar Grant was killed. Previous estimates said that there were 300 or so people at Frank Ogawa Plaza earlier in the day.

After the group met police riot lines several times, a few water bottles were thrown and a few windows were broken on parked cars and in one AC transit bus. Every few blocks police in riot gear would either run up or were already there – until they got everyone penned into one block on Sixth Avenue between 17th and 18th.

Rumors circulated as the mainstream reporters that were still there began questioning protestors about an officer was allegedly run over by a car. Reporters also began asking about a weapon being taken off of a police officer’s belt. However, there was no way to get information in or out of the area in which everyone was penned. Just as quickly as these questions and rumors began the same reporters disappeared.

Several people began shouting for everyone to use their cellphones to call the police, to ask if there was a police commander or information officer available.

At no point did police did clearly issue a dispersal order. There was a bit of chaos as people obviously did not want to be penned in, did not understand why they were being penned and did not know how/if they could leave. When the
loud speaker arrived, they said that the area had been declared a crime
scene. There was no indication if, where or how people who had been
peacefully marching could get out. They only said thesame thing over and over – “This area has been declared a crime scene. Please comply with officers. You will be arrested.” (See video below.)

People asked the officers how to get out, the officers either did not speak, said someone else was coming to let people know or simply that they did not know.

After loud speaker announcements declaring the area a crime scene there was a was deafing silence that took hold for at least a full minute if not two as protestors and front line police officers all waited for a command.

Officers began tackling randomly and taking people down to the ground to then pull them behind police lines. After several people were assaulted in this manner, the police began
telling everyone else to be calm. They began grabbing each person and
plastic cuffing them.

A few more members of the press were allowed to leave if they identified themselves at that point, though mainstream media had long gone a few indepenent journalist remained.

At that point, from the press staging area, you could see the officers wrangling people who were cuffed into a line one by one. OPD’s Public Information Officer Jeff Thomason then briefly described the evening from OPD’s perspective.

Rachel Jackson describes what was happening:

Rachel Jackson speaks to the few official press members left just before
police began making arrests. At this moment no one knew where they could
go, how to get out nor what was going to happen.

Loud speaker
announcements were made that the area was declared a crime scene. There
was never any indication to disperse, no dispersal order given, no
declaration of martial law or anything like that at all. No one was
allowed to leave once the police penned people in. Prior to that, people
were marching toward Fruitvale BART peacefully on city streets, they
were met with riot gear police every few blocks until they were trapped
in a cul-de-sac type neighborhood.

Crime scene announcement and confusion:

Officer on the loud speaker began announcing “This is a crime scene.”

Several people came from the other end of the block stating that the officers
down there had told them to come up front to be let out. They were not
let out. A few press people had been let out just before that, but
people were not read a dispersal statement and were force to stay where
they were and wait to be arrested.

OPD Public Information Officer answers reporter’s questions from OPD’s perspective:


At this moment there were 16 people booked and near 100 more in
plastic cuffs standing in a line with an officer next to each one. There
were several people that were taken down to the ground and dragged
behind police lines before everyone else was told they were being