Protesters gather outside Oakland courthouse to rally for activists, minimum wage increase

Kevin Cheung/Staff

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More than 100 protesters, including UC Berkeley students, gathered outside the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on Tuesday in a demonstration that both decried charges faced by Black Lives Matter activists and advocated a national $15 minimum wage.

Several dozen students and community members gathered for the rally on Sproul Plaza about 1 p.m. before approximately half bused to the courthouse. There, they demonstrated outside the office of Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who is pursuing misdemeanor trespassing charges against activists involved in a November 2014 protest.

The protest coincided with demonstrations across the country advocating a $15 minimum wage.

“I think one thing we need to realize is that this system does not work without us,” said UC Berkeley student Daniel Turner at the protest. “We’ve got to keep going until the machine … stops.

On Black Friday in November 2014, 14 black activists — referred to by protesters as the Black Friday 14 — chained themselves to trains and shut down the West Oakland BART station for several hours to protest the death of Michael Brown.

Protesters on Tuesday called for O’Malley to drop the charges against the 14 arrested. During the protest, 14 leaders from nine labor unions, who intended to symbolize those arrested, occupied O’Malley’s office to demand that the charges be dropped.

“As a people, we are tired of being over-policed and underpaid,” said Danielle Mahones, who also led chants through a megaphone at the protest. “We’re also here to send a message to the D.A.’s office, Nancy O’Malley.”

O’Malley could not immediately be reached for comment by phone.

In January, the BART Board of Directors requested that the district attorney seek a $70,000 restitution from the protesters, but the request was dropped in February. According to members of the Black Friday 14, the criminal charges have not been dropped.

“This is actually a really critical moment,” said Robbie Clark, a member of the Black Friday 14, describing the combined effort of the different protest groups. “(It’s) time for us to get rid of these divides and remember our common goals.”

At the protest, speakers led chants such as “I believe that we will win” and “No justice, no peace.” Speakers also shared their personal experiences with racism and unfair labor conditions.

Union leaders and organizers stressed the importance of unifying causes with the common goal of ending inequality among workers of different ethnic backgrounds. Millie Cleveland, from the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said the fight for raised wages is the same as the fight for black rights.

“(The) fight for the economic equality can’t be separated from racism,” Cleveland said. “(It’s) time for labor to understand that our fight isn’t just against economic inequality but also against racism.”

Contact Michelle Leung and Pressly Pratt at [email protected].