by Alaina Fox
In response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Bay Area activists congregated in San Jose and Oakland on Friday, May 29, for a protest, where violent confrontations between police officers and civilians resulted in chaos and injuries.
The first demonstration began as a peaceful march through San Jose, expanding through the city and shutting down Highway 101. However, the situation escalated as a few rioters smashed car windows. The number of protestors fluctuated, with crowds thinning out as physical confrontations occurred between some protestors and police. Though the vast majority of protestors remained civil, a small group of people engaged in destruction, including damaging buildings, defacing police cars, and burning dumpsters. Additionally, some people threw objects, most commonly water bottles, at the officers stationed in downtown San Jose, the center of the protest. A rock hit one SJPD officer in the head, sending him to the hospital after other officers carried him away from the scene.
Although most protestors were peaceful, police employed rubber bullets, tear gas, riot guns, and flash bang grenades against the crowd. Also, officers arrested an unknown number of protestors. ABC7 News reporter Dan Noyes, witnessing the rising hostility, noted, “The police are being aggressive.”
Beyond police officers, some community members also targeted protestors. A San Jose woman in a SUV allegedly tried to run over protestors. While most were able to avoid the car, the driver swerved in alternating directions, making it difficult to anticipate her path. As a result, she managed to hit two protestors, whose injuries were not life-threatening. Though she fled, police arrested her for attempted murder.
LGHS alumna Emma Gerson attended the San Jose protest, and she emphasized that for the most part, the event and attendees were peaceful. She explained, “We were peaceful for a very long time, and the news only decided to cover the incidents that became destructive…. They decided to cover incidents with the police where the police were doing harmful things to protestors instead of actually talking about the fact that in San Jose, we had a multiracial protest that was peaceful for hours in the heat that wasn’t organized by any group. It was just people coming together.” Additionally, Gerson noted, “A lot of these incidents of property damage, of violence, are not being started by the protestors. They’re being started by people who are from outside groups, [such as] white supremacist groups, who come in and want to take advantage and start a riot.”
At 8:00 PM, a protest over George Floyd’s death also erupted in Oakland. Similar to what happened in San Jose, protesters blocked roads; specifically, they spread out on Interstate 880. For about two hours, the protest remained peaceful, but the scene turned sour when the demonstrators began throwing objects at police officers, thirteen of whom sustained injuries.
Oakland police detained 60 protestors. In a video posted by the Oakland Police Department on various social media platforms, Interim Police Chief Susan Manheimer asserted, “we stood with our community here in the city of Oakland” when the protesting was peaceful, but explained that the city had to take action when it became “violent and disruptive.” Requesting civility in future demonstrations, Manheimer said, “we want to call on everyone… to respect the memory of George Floyd.”
In both San Jose and Oakland, police deemed the protests unlawful and tried to encourage the crowds to leave, often through the use of tear gas. However, some activists adamantly stood their ground, braving aggression from law enforcement. Additionally, more protests followed in other cities, including Santa Cruz, Sacramento, and San Francisco. City officials anticipate that there will be more demonstrations, both locally and nationally, and hope the presence of additional forces will discourage looting and destruction. Some cities have implemented a curfew as well; for example, San Francisco will prohibit residents, with the exception of some exempt workers, to be out between 8:00 PM and 5:00 AM. Similarly, San Jose has enacted a curfew that applies between 8:30 PM and 5:00 AM. While San Francisco’s order will last “until we see the situation is under control” according to Mayor London Breed, San Jose’s curfew will only be in effect for one week. Walnut Creek, Santa Clara, Danville, Pleasant Hill, Lafayette, Alameda, Hayward, and San Leandro have all issued unique curfews. More cities are expected to follow suit
(Sources: ABC7, CBS, KRON4, KTVU, SF Bay Area, Mercury News, NBC Bay Area, SF Chronicle, SF Gate)