Protesters arrested; removed from freeway
on March 4, 2010
Updated 10:08 am, March 5
Approximately 150 protesters who temporarily shut down the 980/880 freeway were arrested on an off-ramp this afternoon by Oakland police. The protesters were moved to the 980/880 off-ramp at the Jackson exit, where they sat on the ramp surrounded by dozens of police officers before being loaded onto a police bus around 6:30 pm. At that time, the southbound ramp remained closed but the northbound ramp had been re-opened and traffic was flowing on the freeway in both directions.
“We made over 150 arrests, and we are still processing,” said Oakland Police Department spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason at that time.
The protest followed an otherwise peaceful rally at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza this afternoon, at which hundreds of students and teachers gathered to mark their opposition to state budget cuts that have resulted in teacher layoffs, staff furloughs, class reductions and supply shortages at schools throughout the state. “Ninety percent stayed peaceful,” said Thomason of the demonstrators. “A group broke away.”
Thomason said that no one was hurt in the incident except for one protester who reportedly fell off of the freeway ramp, and who he says sustained non-life-threatening injuries. An eyewitness named Wayman, 26, who declined to give his last name because he works for a Bay Area public school, said that when the police began making arrests, the man — still standing on the freeway — grabbed a tree branch. “In an attempt to climb down the tree, he fell,” said Wayman.
Adults who were arrested will be charged with misdemeanors for being on the freeway and disobeying an order to disperse, said Thomason. Adults were transported by bus to Santa Rita jail, he said at the end of the night.
Nine juveniles, including at least one 12-year-old, were arrested. By 7:30 pm, eight had been released to their parents, and the police were waiting for one more 17-year-old girl to be picked up.
Sebastian Beretvas, a 12-year-old Oakland School of the Arts student who was arrested and then released, said he had been attending the rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza with the permission of his parents. “Me and my friend were going to take the bus home and we saw some protesters so we decided to just follow the protester,” he said. “Then we were led onto the freeway, and I was like, ‘Okay, this isn’t a good idea.’ That was one side of my brain. And then the other side was like, ‘I want to keep going.’”
His mother, Jill Davidson, affirmed that her son had permission to be at the rally. “We support the cause. We gave permission for him to be at the protest. It got carried away. It was a herd mentality,” she said.
“I had fun before and the protest was fun, and then I was really scared when I was getting arrested and I had handcuffs on,” Beretvas said.
Wayman, who was not arrested, said that some drivers seemed to support the freeway shutdown. “There were cheers and honking in solidarity, which I thought was pretty incredible,” he said. “We were up there taking what is admittedly a desperate action in order to bring focus to the plight of public education in California. We shouldn’t have to take an initiative like this.”
Callie Maidhof, a first year Ph.D anthropology candidate at UC Berkeley who had been authorized to speak to the press by the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, the Reclaim UC movement, and the graduate assembly, said on behalf of the arrested protesters: “I think that the people who took the highway acted really bravely. I am sure that they understood the risk that they were taking. They acted out of principle, out of support for something that the Bay Area and people across the country have been fighting for today together.”
“Clearly the highway is something that affects us all and can shut down a whole city at one artery,” she continued. “The action was in order to call attention and escalate.”
By 7:45 the bus full of arrested protesters had left the scene and the last of the juveniles had been sent home. At the now quiet and almost deserted intersection of 4th and Jackson, the last police officers to leave the scene, all wearing “Negotiator” badges across their backs loaded into their police cars and headed back downtown.
This story developed rapidly; Oakland North posted real time updates and has now finalized the details of the night’s events up until this point. The quote by Beretvas was corrected for accuracy at 9:45pm.
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