After room reaches capacity, Blueford protestors shut out of city council meeting
on October 2, 2012
About 100 people packed in to Oakland City Hall during Tuesday night’s council meeting before police temporarily barricaded the doors to prevent the possibility of a raucous protest, similar to the one that shut down the meeting two weeks ago. On both occasions, the protesters were there in support of Alan Blueford, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer on May 6, and to demand that the Oakland Police Department make reports regarding his death available to the Blueford family.
As the councilmembers gathered at about 5:45 p.m., protesters had already filled the chambers. But within a few minutes, police officers stood at every entrance, a signal that no one else was allowed in. Hundreds more people were on the other side of the doors to the main meeting room, demanding to get in by yelling, stomping and blowing whistles. Meanwhile protesters inside the council chambers, who were holding up yellow signs that read “Justice 4 Alan Blueford,” repeatedly screamed, “Let them in, let them in, let them in!”
Over the next half hour, the crowd on both sides of the doors continued to noisily chant. They used the “human microphone” technique popularized during the Occupy Oakland protests to collectively shout, “We know that we are the real business of the city of Oakland.”
“We will be back with the Blueford family at every city council meeting until Miguel Masso is fired, until he his prosecuted,” they chanted, referring to the police officer who shot Blueford. “We’ll be back.”
At about 6:30 p.m., council president Larry Reid said he would shut down the meeting if the yelling continued. But in response to the family’s plea for help in getting more information about Blueford’s death, Reid handed over what he said was “his copy” of the police report.
At that point, the Blueford family and most of their supports went outside. For more than an hour, no one was allowed back into the meeting room unless they had previously filled out a speaker card. But by about 8 p.m., most of the crowd had dispersed, and people were once again allowed to freely enter the room as the council meeting continued normally.
Tuesday’s protest followed on the heels of the one held during the September 18 council meeting, when about 200 residents and members of Blueford’s family protested to demand that the OPD turn over a police report to them. The crowd grew angry and started yelling when council president Larry Reid said that Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan was on his way with the police report. Minutes later, the meeting was adjourned without an explanation.
Tuesday’s closure of the council chambers had been planned in advance, said Karen Boyd, a spokesperson for the city, speaking before the meeting. The council had agreed to close the doors once the 110–seat room capacity was reached, she said. The balcony upstairs, which is routinely filled with members of the public, was also closed.
“We had a situation last week, where so many people were blocking the doors,” Boyd said. “We’re doing this for security reasons—we want people to be able to participate in the public process in a safe space.”
Boyd confirmed that conversations about drafting a new public meeting policy were started two weeks ago among city councilmembers. New rules were finalized today, such as not allowing people into the balcony, she said. But others that the police officers had been called to enforce Tuesday evening have been around for years, Boyd said. Boyd said that there has always been a 15-minute limit for public speaking at the beginning of council meetings as well as a rule that hallways need to be cleared to allow for wheelchair access, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Outside City Hall Tuesday night, John Burris, an attorney for the Bluefords who has frequently been involved in litigation against the city, said the police report was turned over to him and the city council this afternoon. It was heavily redacted, Burris said.
“The report does not have the most important thing—the statements from the police officers on scene,” Burris said, standing next to Adam Blueford, Alan’s father. “It’s a crime report, which is a small summary of the initial statements made at the time. It’s significant, but it’s not complete.”
Burris said there are conflicting witness statements in the report, some of which say that Blueford had a weapon and some that don’t. Police have confirmed that there were four shots fired that Sunday night, all from one police officer, and none from Blueford.
Oakland North will continue to follow this story, and will have a complete account of the rest of Tuesday night’s meeting on Wednesday morning.
Ashley Griffin contributed to this report.
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.