After grand jury decides to not indict Ferguson officer, protests erupt in Oakland

Daniel Kim/Staff

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OAKLAND — After a grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, protests erupted throughout the nation, including one in downtown Oakland attended by about 40 UC Berkeley students.

A St. Louis County grand jury has been considering the charges against Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, whose fatal shooting of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in August sparked protests in the St. Louis suburb as well as various U.S. cities.

The 12-person grand jury began meeting behind closed doors in August, hearing testimony as it decided whether Wilson would face charges, ranging from involuntary manslaughter to murder, according to the Associated Press.

Although the grand jury reached a decision Monday morning, it was not made public until about 6 p.m., after which community members gathered in protest at 14th Street and Broadway in Oakland.

UC Berkeley junior Sergio Cuevas, who attended the protest, emphasized that the Bay Area community needs to show its solidarity with the people in Ferguson.

“(The decision) shows that we value one type of person more than the other,” Cuevas said. “There’s no type of justice for people of color in this nation.”

Protesters walked onto several freeway ramps in attempts to shut them down. They were prevented from closing down Interstate 880, but they shut down Interstate 580 West between Lakeshore Avenue and Park Boulevard, according to a report by the city of Oakland as of 9:15 p.m. Monday. A police car was spray-painted with graffiti, and a window of the Chase Bank at 20th and Webster streets was broken.

Michael Brown’s family released a statement through their lawyers after the release of the decision, asking that people keep their demonstrations peaceful.

“Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate action,” the statement said. “Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference.”

In August, similar protests erupted in Berkeley, where anti-police protesters, many of whom were UC Berkeley students, marched from Oakland to Berkeley. Protesters allegedly damaged property on Telegraph Avenue, and two protesters were arrested.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan released a letter to the community, anticipating demonstrations in downtown Oakland between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., and a release included safety tips for businesses.

“Keeping peace on our streets and protecting the safety of Oakland residents, businesses, visitors and employees is our top priority and we will be prepared,” the statement said.

In Berkeley, the Berkeley High School Digest — a newsletter sent to students of Berkeley High School and their families —  noted that school districts across the country planned for a variety of responses to the grand jury’s verdict.

“I think everyone has a responsibility (to protest),”said UC Berkeley freshman Meredith Dechert. “If we don’t resist the system, we’re complicit in it.”


Contact Suhauna Hussain at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @suhaunah.