Council considers new meeting policies after raucous protest in wake of Blueford killing

More than 200 people packed the City Council chambers at City Hall Tuesday, Sept. 18, in protest of the killing of Alan Blueford.

More than 200 people packed the City Council chambers at City Hall Tuesday, Sept. 18, in protest of the killing of Alan Blueford.

Reacting angrily to the protest that broke up Tuesday night’s Oakland City Council meeting, city officials said Wednesday that they were working to establish new policies designed to prevent further such disruptions during regular meetings.

“It was my decision to close the meeting down, after I saw that there was no way that Occupy Oakland was going to leave the council chambers and allow us to conduct the business that we’re supposed to do, as elected officials,” City Council President Larry Reid said Wednesday.

Reid shut down the meeting, which lasted from about 6 to 8 p.m., before the first agenda-scheduled business began. What started with a plea for information by family members of Alan Blueford, an 18-year-old Skyline High School student who was shot to death by an Oakland police officer last May, quickly turned into a noisy demonstration centering on police-involved shootings.

In addition to signs that mentioned Occupy, people carried signs affiliated with the Uhuru Movement, and others said there were protesters at City Hall from the Black Panther Party.

“This is the first time that I’ve had to adjourn a meeting like this, and that’s the last time that will be done while I’m president of the council,” Reid said.

At a press conference at Oakland police headquarters Wednesday morning, Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana said officials are examining ways the city can “redesign how council meetings are held, to anticipate large crowds who intend on interrupting that meeting.”

Reid, along with Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, Santana, Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, and Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan, said they started talks Wednesday to try to establish new rules on how to prevent future occurrences of what Reid called “unfair disruption.”

The councilmembers declined to provide specifics about how the new policies would be crafted.

“We are going to put a plan in place that will allow us to conduct the business of the city without being interrupted, and that allows everybody to exercise freedom of speech no mater how sensitive the issue—without the screaming,” Reid explained.  “Being disruptive and not allowing council members to speak, and shutting the meeting down, the cussing—that’s not acceptable.”

Several councilmembers said at Tuesday’s meeting that the Blueford family deserves answers, and should have the police report they were requesting from Jordan and other city officials.  But city officials also said Wednesday that they believed quick and early action to close the meeting was necessary in the aftermath of last fall’s Occupy Oakland actions and encampment in the city.

“The rowdiness of the crowd and all the yelling and screaming would never have happened before Occupy,” Reid said. “It was never like this before. We’ve had heated and sometimes disruptive discourse, but never like this. It denies the rights to the public to let them speak.”

In the council chambers, Blueford’s parents demanded answers, both from Jordan and from the council, as to why they haven’t received a copy of the police report with details about their son’s May 6 killing.

“Why did this guy kill my son?” asked Adam Blueford, Alan’s father, referring to Oakland police officer Miguel Masso, who authorities have confirmed is the one who shot and killed Blueford.  Adam stood before the microphone, less than five feet from the council, and addressed elected officials by name—including Reid. “We just want to know what happened.”

The Bluefords, along with their supporters, lined up about 30 deep to speak during the council’s public comments period, scheduled before the agenda portion of each regular meeting. They shared emotional stories about the Skyline High School senior and demanded the full police report detailing the incident in which he was shot to death on the 9200 block of Birch Street.

But about an hour into the public comments, protesters began shouting. Reid then announced that Jordan was on his way with the family’s police report. Meanwhile, the crowd chanted “Alan Blueford justice!” and “Where’s Howard Jordan?”

More than a half hour later, with no announcement from Jordan, and following several attempts to get back to regular business, the meeting was adjourned—so quietly that most people did not hear the announcement. At least one person stood on a table and yelled at councilmembers, while the crowd continued protesting.

“I’m glad people are here to support us,” Adam Blueford said about the demonstration, which by 8 p.m. had spilled out on to the steps of City Hall. “This is new for us. We’re just a grieving family. We don’t know what else to do.”

While angry protesters spoke out about the officer-involved shooting, a cadre of city officials filed in to a back room to figure out how to deal with what just went on.

Reid said he had 40 other speaker cards from people who wanted to be heard on other agenda items. One item was slated to take up a dispute over whether or not to cut down some city trees that blocked a view from a home in the Oakland Hills. Another referred to a report expected to be delivered later in the evening by the police chief on citywide crime-reduction strategies.

Latonda Simmons, Oakland’s city clerk, said Tuesday night was the first time that she can remember, in 10 years, that a meeting was shut down before it was even started. “The sentiment of the public was clear,” she said as she left City Hall.

Kernighan said she once shut down a meeting of the Public Safety Commission due to Occupy Oakland protests. She said that is part of the reason why she wants to help come up with a solution on how to deal with demonstrations like Tuesday night’s in the future.

“We’re in various conversations on how to shut down this kind of activity if it ever happens again,” Kernighan said. “That is interfering with the rest of the public’s right to speak about other business that needs to be taken care of.”

But some city councilmembers also criticized the decision to adjourn the meeting without a clear explanation. District 1 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 said the police responded to Jordan’s decision not to speak. “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 them to want to know what happened.”

De La Fuente echoed Kaplan’s concerns. “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.”

Jordan, joining the press conference Wednesday morning, explained that he was at City Hall Tuesday night, but he did not come out to address the family and demonstrators. Things “went wrong,” he said.

Jordan said he was eager to deliver a redacted police report to the family, and said that at one point Tuesday evening he asked the Bluefords to meet with him and the city administrator in a private room to talk about the case. But the Bluefords declined, he said.

Jordan had intended to bring the family the police report, he said. But after consulting with police investigators and the district attorney’s office, “we could not release the report,” he said.

“It was a miscommunication on my part, with the council president, who made that announcement,” Jordan told about a dozen reporters Wednesday.

Jordan explained that Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and police are conducting as many as four investigations into the shooting—at least one is a criminal investigation and one is an internal affairs investigation. The Bluefords have also filed a lawsuit with the city, which is delaying the case, Jordan said.

Jordan and elected officials said they were meeting regularly with the Blueford family, to give them as many details as they could on their son’s death.

“We’re still working with the DA’s office to determine when the case will be closed. It’s still under investigation,” Jordan said. “We tried to meet with family members last night when I showed up at City Hall. They did not want to do that.”

Reid, whom the family called on to help them Tuesday night, said that he is meeting with them because he cares about them. “I care about any one who loses a child to violence on the streets of Oakland,” he said. “This family is hurting and they want answers.”

See Oakland North’s raw video of the protest here. Read our initial coverage of the meeting and protest here.

10 Comments

  1. wiseoldsnail

    there were people from all walks of life present at tuesday night’s meeting, many having no previous connection to occupy oakland. reid blaming occupy for the fury from oaklanders is absurd, and i’m glad you pointed out that there were people from many activist groups, and people unaffiliated with any group.

    it’s too bad larry reid doesn’t recognize that the anger is because of murder by cop and coverup by the city administrator, not because of occupy. his logic is completely backward. the whole existence of the occupy movement is due to decades of increasing corporate control of government. this council is part of the problem, many of them making decisions daily to benefit corporations at the expense of the people of oakland.

    the willingness of deanna santana to let this go on this long is shameful. she has done little to nothing to get the truth out, while having shielded miguel masso from prosecution for this heinous murder. she’s also done nothing to acknowledge the lies by opd to the press the very day of this shooting, made worse by piling new lies on top of the original lies every time the topic comes up.

    this is more proof that opd should be disbanded.

    meanwhile, reid’s big plan to prevent disruptions is to call for more police brutality, now at city council meetings. he threatens to have people bodily removed from meetings often. he talks or sleeps while people are talking. deanna santana plays angry birds on her phone while people are talking. again, shameful. larry reid is a tyrant.

    it’s time for this whole council to wake up. their plans to increase the number of police in this town, while cutting education, is a recipe for disaster. it seems they must be taking kickbacks for delivering slave labor to the industrial prison complex. why else would they pretend to believe that the way to reduce crime is to empower and embolden police to beat and murder people, while closing schools?

    it’s time to get police out of the schools, and get violent gang members (police) out of our neighborhoods.

    • VictorLicata

      Truth. Most people there were not Occupy. This is a particularly heinous murder and blatant coverup. In fact, a large portion of the loudest people are very outspoken in their opposition to Occupy. Reid is generalizing all public outcry as Occupy… wow. That’s pathetic. I would rather have AIDS than a mind that handicapped.

      It might be that Occupy set a new standard, but it could also be that Occupy was just the first indignant expression of a fed-up public. Such speculation is purely from my imagination, and I know that. Reid can’t tell the difference between what he sees and what he imagines.

  2. Nichola Torbett

    Well, city council could give up meeting in public. That way it would never have to be troubled by the pesky opinions and feelings of the citizens.

  3. wiseoldsnail

    forgot to mention : coward jordan was sitting in the private council room while the blueford family waited in tears for a police report. neither he nor larry reid had the courtesy to offer a public explanation as to why he was present but not speaking. of course he was available to the press for a prewritten press statement after the fact. hence the name coward.

  4. Hillbilly865

    I sat in my home watching this entire debacle live on the internet. I agree the public was outraged, angry and disruptive. I observed as they were ignored and were treated with a distant coldness by the people they had elected to represent them. I was extremely proud of the citizens as I am beginning to see people start to reclaim their communities and the services provided by the local governments. It is my fear that actions to prohibit the free speech of the citizens will only make this situation worse. It is time for the city council to listen to the citizens. If that comes with anger that was provoked by city employes then let the cards fall where they may. I am proud of the people of Oakland for leading our nation in reclaiming our government for the public good.

  5. I call shenanigans on Reid’s and Jordan’s assertion that they are in constanr communication with the Bluefords. If that is the case, then why were they so unprepared for this? If they were in ‘constant communication’ with the family, they would have either provided the report or had given the family a plausible explanation so that they wouldn’t have to come begging and pleading for answers!

    -__-

  6. J. Lefman

    As long as these “people” remain silent of the shootings committed by their children in their neighborhoods, I have no respect for their views.

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