Nearly 200 angry protesters shut down Tuesday night’s Oakland City Council meeting, citing outrage at the Oakland Police Department’s handling of the officer-involved shooting death of Alan Blueford, a Skyline High School senior who was gunned down in East Oakland on May 6.
Blueford’s father, Adam, said his son, who was 18, was approached by Oakland police officer Miguel Masso around 12:20 a.m. that night in May. The family asserts that Masso drove up in a police car with headlights turned off, and that Adam was shot three times after fleeing.
At 6 p.m. at Tuesday’s council meeting, a line of about 20 people waited to speak during the public comment period that regularly precedes public meetings. Adam Blueford, flanked by his wife and daughter, asked the City Council to respond. The family wore t-shirts that read “justice for Alan Blueford.”
There are holes in his son’s case, he said. He pleaded continually for the police report.
“It’s been months, and we just want to know what happened—what happened to my son,” Blueford said. “There are lies being told. It’s troubling. There was no reason to shoot my son. The police never called in the stop, they never called in the chase.”
By 6:30 p.m., City Administrator Deanna Santana had stopped the meeting and announced Chief Howard Jordan would return after a short recess with the police report. Council member Ignacio De La Fuente, who represents Fruitvale, tried to move on with the City Council agenda—which was slated to take up issues including a bitter dispute over whether to cut down some trees on city property that blocked a view from a home in the Oakland hills—but the crowd grew more raucous.
As council members shuffled, Council President Larry Reid addressed the family, saying he was trying to get answers. Blueford’s family pleaded again for details about where and why Alan was shot, about what happened to hours unaccounted for, about why police said he was at Highland Hospital in Oakland, yet the hospital said he’d never been there.
“We came here asking for help,” said Jeralynn Blueford, Alan’s mother, as she addressed councilmembers, calling out to Reid, “You may not know what it feels like to bury your baby. But I am broken up, I am shattered, I am devastated.”
Alberta Blueford-Walls, Alan’s aunt, begged for answers too. “How long do we have to wait for a police report?” she asked, as her voice rose and tears streamed down her cheeks. “Where’s Howard Jordan? Where’s Howard Jordan?” the crowd chanted, as some protesters climbed atop desks in City Hall.
Though Santana said police were on their way with the report, no police or city officials ever addressed the crowd following the recess when they cut off public speakers. Council members simply packed up their papers and walked away. The protest spilled on to the steps outside City Hall.
“On behalf of the family, thank you for coming out tonight,” Adam Blueford’s said to protesters. “This is new for us—we’re just a grieving family. We just want answers.”
District One Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who spoke after the meeting adjourned, said she doesn’t remember a council meeting ever being shut down due to a protest.
“What I found difficult tonight, was here we have this grieving family, and all they want is the police report,” Brunner said as she walked to her car. “The chief or the city manager never made a public explanation about why they haven’t gotten the report, about what the process is to get it or when they’ll get it.”
At-large councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan criticized the police department.
“There’s a couple major issues here,” she said. “Tonight underscores that fact that we have a lot of work to do repairing the relationship between the department and the community. And this family lost their 18-year-old. They’re dealing with a human tragedy—it’s right for hem to want to know what happened.”
De La Fuente echoed Kaplan.
“There’s no reason why anyone should wait so long for a police report,” he said while the crowd waited for Jordan, who never arrived. “There’s no excuse—it’s that simple.”
Protesters said they went to the meeting show support for the family, and make their outrage public.
“This tells us just how important this case is to the community,” said Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, who was killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009. “It’s very emotional for me, especially knowing the family isn’t even to first base—they don’t have the report and so they can’t get the officer charged.”
Patti Rich, 56, said she’s lived in Oakland for 30 years. She came to show solidarity, she said.
“I’ve seen so much injustice done to young black men,” Rich said. “It’s heinous when people who are supposed to protect us, kill them.”
One San Francisco elementary school teacher stood in back and chanted along with the crowd, “Justice for Alan Blueford.”
“I’ve been coming here since the shooting happened in May,” said Frank Lara, who teaches at Buena Vista Horace Mann in San Francisco. “There’s an inherent pattern of police violence that needs to stop. We need to raise those issues here and make noise.”