Less than 24 hours after Donald Trump clinched the presidency, downtown Oakland filled with undocumented immigrants, families with young children, students and activists who gathered to reject their president-elect.
What began as a peaceful protest, by 8:30 p.m. had become more confrontational as police officers deployed tear gas and began to line up along the route of the marchers. By this time there were at least 6,000 people in the crowd, according to the Oakland Police Department.
The California Highway Patrol reported that they had shut down the Broadway off-ramp of the northbound 880 freeway.
The protest began at 5 p.m. when people began gathering at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland. By 6 p.m. at least 1,000 people had assembled and started moving down Broadway shouting “March! March! March!”
Above their heads they held signs that read “Let’s not go backwards,” “Impeach Trump” and “White people wake up and smell the fascism!” Some police officers on bicycles scanned the crowd while others marched behind carrying zip ties.
Jorge Rivas, who said he identifies as a Latino gay man, said it felt like the morning after the Orlando shooting all over again. In June, Omar Mateen killed 49 people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. “I have a feeling that half of this country doesn’t like me just for who I am,” Rivas said as he leaned against a building watching the protest, still in his work suit from earlier in the day.
A man on a motorcycle wearing a plastic Hillary Clinton mask and a t-shirt that read “Fuck Trump” screeched his tires on the pavement as he dragged a Trump piñata behind. Another protester carried a Mexican flag in solidarity with immigrants who feel uncertain about their future in this country. Two were riding bikes that blew bubbles.
Elizabeth R., an undocumented immigrant who wore a mask and asked that her full last name not be used, said she felt frustrated that anyone would want to take away her right to a higher education. “I was just surprised that people were so racist,” she said. “I didn’t know it was that serious.”
Meanwhile Jewel Ross, a Hayward resident, blinked back tears. “I think at this point it shows us that there truly are two Americas,” she said.
Nani Schroeder, a student at St. Mary’s College in Lafayette, said, “In a way I was surprised, but ignorance and hatred in this country doesn’t surprise me. I want to use my voice of privilege to protest for other folks who don’t feel safe.”
Riding on a flatbed truck, Cat Brooks of the Anti-Police Terror Project and Black Power Network’s Carol Fief lead the protesters in chanting “Fuck Trump,” and made an announcement calling for protesters not to vandalize “mom and pop, brown, Black or native” stores.
Shortly after 8:30 pm, the people on the flatbed truck who had been leading the march began announcing that the protest was over and would resume on Thursday. They urged the elderly, children and “those identifying as fragile” to leave.
Soon afterward, the police formed a line at 7th Street and Broadway and began moving along the street as the protesters fell back to the sidewalk and moved towards 16th Street. Some of them gathered at William Street and Telegraph where someone was projecting the Trump’s image on the side of the under-renovation Uber building.
Some protesters set off fireworks. Others burned a Trump effigy, and someone set a pile of cardboard on fire in the middle of a downtown intersection. Meanwhile, the police shot teargas and flash bangs as they advanced towards the fire. Around 9 pm, the police declared an “unlawful destruction of property” and ordered people to disperse.
Around 9:15, vandalism reached a high point on the block of Broadway between 18th and 17th Streets. A group of protesters wearing clown and Guy Fawkes masks used bricks, their feet and a large stick to smash the glass windows of the Oakland Coin and Jewelry Exchange at 1725 Broadway. Other storefronts on that block were covered in graffiti as well. Multiple trash and cardboard fires were started in the middle of the street and a much larger fire was raging at the intersection of 17th Street and Broadway.
Meanwhile, other protesters yelled “Stop vandalizing, stop destroying our city, you don’t belong here!” at them.
Around 9:30 pm, police began to form a skirmish line at 17th Street and Telegraph and continued to order the crowd to disperse.
Lindsay Parrot, a protester who had demonstrated earlier in the evening carrying a sign reading “love trumps hate,” had left the crowd before the violence erupted to stop in at Cafe Van Kleef. “I don’t think violence ever answers what protest means for this country,” she said. “The whole point is we peacefully protest what we think is wrong in a way that the opposition will see our point is being made and we come from a moral side. If there is violence, it defeats the whole purpose.”
Later Wednesday night, Taz Hannan, an Oakland resident who was attacked while trying to stop looters, was being treated at the Alta Bates emergency room for a cut under his right eyebrow. He was punched by some protesters while others tried to protect him.
“I wanted to get Chinese food and then I saw these guys with bats,” Hannan said. “Then I rushed a guy and he tried to spray me. The cops then showed up. I was following around and trying to protect cars.”
Hannan, who identifies as Persian-American, said, “I have more to lose if Trump gets elected.”
This was not the first anti-Trump gathering in the East Bay today. Earlier, student demonstrations at high schools evolved into protests downtown Wednesday afternoon, as young Oaklanders sought to express their anger over the results of the presidential election.
Young protesters began assembling at Broadway and 14th Streets around 2:30 p.m. Holding signs with slogans including “Fuck Trump,” “#BlackLivesMatter,” “United against corruption!” and “Pussy grabs back,” the protesters blocked a school bus while chanting “Not my president!”
Car horns sounded and vehicles swerved through the crowd of protesters as students linked arms in solidarity. Passersby yelled, “Get out of the street!” and honked their horns. A silver Nissan Altima drove through the crowd, forcing the students to unlink arms.
Student leader Jackson Feinstein, 18, of Met West High School, said he was marching with classmates to protest Trump. “Our school is primarily Latino and Black. So, I think that there’s a big fear of the deportation aspect that a lot of students have for their family members or friends,” he said.
When Trump’s win was called last night, Feinstein said, “I felt let down. I felt discouraged for the next four years. His whole campaign is based off of rallying people through fear.”
Some encouraged passersby to join them in their demonstration. Jose Ornelas, who was walking by, said he voted for Trump. “These kids are young and they want to express themselves,” he said over the protestors’ chants. “They’re being taught wrong. Their teachers are teaching them wrong.”
Ornelas called the street-blocking protest a “bad habit.” He said, “blockading your fellow citizens and keeping them from where they need to go is not how freedom of assembly works.”
Ogawa Plaza has been taken over many times in recent years by Occupy Oakland and nearby freeways have been shut down by Black Lives Matter protesters, a tactic that has become familiar to residents.
A few feet away, two mothers stood on a sidewalk with their young children, holding signs that read “Free hugs.” One of them, Cynthia Tiangco-Withers, said they wanted to bring their kids out and spread a little more love. “We want to teach our kids that love does trump hate.”
She said she hopes that giving free hugs can teach her children that the incoming president’s offensive rhetoric does not represent the country as a whole.
On Wednesday afternoon, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement urging residents to choose constructive methods of protest rather than violence and vandalism.
“I ask Oaklanders to not just get mad, get involved. Donate and work with organizations fighting bigotry and promoting inclusion, choice, environmental justice, income equality and immigrant rights,” she wrote. “The best way to protest this election is to show that Oakland comes together and does not fall apart. Show that diverse, progressive cities like ours work and remain committed to social justice. Demonstrate that our local and state voters will wield their power and independence for good – as we did in our local elections last night, by approving billions of dollars for affordable housing, transit and teachers, and making common sense reforms to gun control and our criminal justice system.”
“Oakland chooses community, not chaos, in where we go from here,” she concluded.
Oakland North will continue to update this story as it progresses.
Reporting and photos by Rachel Loyd, Pablo De La Hoya, Alex Orlando, Sofia Melo, Mary Newman, Tian Chenwei, Abner Hauge, Andy Beale, Leah Rosenbaum, Margaret Katcher, Jacob Shea, Alessandra Bergamin, and Rosa Furneaux. Text story by Nate Shiedlower, Cassady Rosenblum and Alexandria Fuller. Photo slideshow assembled by Alexandria Fuller.