The tent city at Lakeview Elementary School has been dismantled. At 4 a.m. Oakland Unified School District police and other law enforcement officers raided the encampment where parents, teachers, and community activist had been sleeping for two weeks in an effort to protest the district’s decision to close five elementary schools.
The raid, which included city police officers as well as those from the Oakland Housing Authority and the California Highway Patrol, came a day after the protesters celebrated 16 days on the site by letting members of the public enter the school’s auditorium to watch a documentary. On Monday, OUSD’s spokesman, Troy Flint, said the district viewed this as “an escalation” and said that the protesters had been warned to disperse many times.
On Tuesday morning, Flint said there had been a systematic decision to remove the protesters. “The consensus was that the protesters had made their voice heard but there was nothing substantive to be gained at this point because we were clearly unable to reach a compromise,” Flint said by phone.
“We came there at about 3:50 a.m.,” said Flint. “Officers made contact with people at the site. We reiterated a request that they vacate the premises, which we’ve been making continually since June 15th and people basically complied with that request.”
Minutes later the officers made a couple more dispersal orders, Flint said. “I believe one was at 4:11 and one was at 4:26 or thereabouts. And by the time we did the third call almost everyone had left or was actively gathering their belongings in order to leave,” Flint said.
There were two arrests, Flint said. “Two people—that are two of the leaders I guess you could call them, or two of the more prominent protesters—they requested to be arrested as a symbolic statement or to reinforce how series they are about there campaign,” Flint said. Both protesters were issued a Technical Arrest Order (TAO). “They were not actually taken into custody, but were cited there and then released,” Flint said.
There were two children on the site, according to Flint, and 15 to 20 adults. “The atmosphere was tense but I never thought it was on the verge of hostility,” Flint said. “The whole engagement went much more smoothly then I anticipated. We have our faculties on the ground taking down the tent city. They have been there since 6 a.m. The vast majority of items, even down to things like banners and signs, people claimed,” he said.
At 11:00 am, protesters said they were continuing to hold summer camp classes on the steps outside of the school and across the street at Splash Pad Park. “When I left, there were 8 or 9 kids and three of there parents were present,” said Alima Catellacci, who taught at Lazear Elementary school before it was closed down. She has been at the Lakeview encampment since day one. “We are calling for a rally and march at 5 p.m. and working out details about the next step to take about staying there into the night.”
Flint said that the district is going to secure the Lakeview premises “to a greater degree” from a facility standpoint: changing the locks, raising a 360-degree fence, and restricting the site’s access point. The district plans to use the facility as an administrative office. “We do have plans for this building for the 2012-13 school year and we need to move forward with those,” he said.
Oakland North will continue to follow this story.