Around noontime, as the newly-sworn in President Donald Trump prepared to join the parade that would take him to the White House, a crowd gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza outside of Oakland City Hall to protest his inauguration.
The protest was the second one held downtown on Friday, following a small gathering outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building early in the morning. Afterward, demonstrators had migrated over to the plaza, where groups set up tents, handed out literature and offered free food to protesters.
Nearby, over a hundred students from Oakland’s Emiliano Zapata Street Academy gathered at Latham Square for their own anti-Trump protest. Several other Oakland schools, including Bridges Academy and Manzanita Community School, had organized student marches or walk-outs on Friday.
“We are multi-racial school and we are an alternative school, so everything Trump stands for we stand against,” said 10th grade student Tony Elayina Eazalaki. “A walkout is what we can do. We are youth—we don’t have much power, but together unified we do. I felt hopeless at first, but now when we all here together I feel empowered.”
The group gathered in the plaza held an open mic discussion, and then around 12:45, when the crowd had reached around 400 people, began to march down Broadway. The crowd was preceded by a white pickup truck with about 6 young men standing in the bed, who led the crowd in chants and recited spoken word poetry over a PA system.
“I feel like this is going to be the start of the revolution we’ve all been waiting for,” Oakland resident Kimberly Rojas said while walking alongside the truck.
As the crowd passed the former Sears building, soon to be the Oakland home of ride-sharing service Uber, they chanted “Fuck Uber and Donald Trump!”
Other popular chants: “America was never great!” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”
“I watched the inauguration and felt all sorts of bad. I was looking at Obama and missed him already and I don’t know how he sat there and listened to it,” said Oakland resident Michael Goldwyn.
“I felt like I had to do something to protest. Connecting with people in the flesh is more personal than only staying online,” said Drew Nelson.
“It felt wrong not to be here, ignorant not to be present, as the situation is abnormal. Trump is authoritarian. We need to reject him constantly,” said Nick P., an Oakland resident who declined to give his full last name.
Some downtown workers who had come outside to watch the march were cautious; during demonstrations following Trump’s election, demonstrators had smashed windows, set fires and committed other acts of vandalism downtown. “I’m all for protesting and letting your voice be heard, but when you break property, doors and windows, that’s not a way to do it. Breaking things, hurting other people’s property. It creates more division,” said Oakland resident Kevin Monroy, who works at a building on the plaza and was standing outside his office to watch the protesters.
But as of 4 pm, Friday’s march had only been peaceful. Protesters turned around once they reached 27th Street and headed back to the plaza to continue their demonstration. As the crowd gathered in the amphitheater outside of city hall, a variety of speakers and spoken word performers, many of them high school and middle school students, expressed their concerns about the incoming Trump administration. In particular, the students criticized Trump’s cabinet picks as not including people of color. They also criticized Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos for never having attended a public school, and questioned whether she would know how to aid public schools in low-income communities in Oakland. They also spoke about local issues, including students’ fear of police.
“We are more than our nationality, our gender, our age! If you can’t count on a superhero to save the day, that’s okay because it starts with you,” said Katie Ly, a 12th grader at Alameda High School.
Eric Adams of Youth Together had been leading the open mic and youth speakers as they spoke in the amphitheater. “I’m really happy with the turnout. This is a crucial time for our youth to mobilize. I’m proud,” Adams said.
Watchers flew rainbow flags representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender community, and put up a giant banner reading “Become ungovernable.”
At around 3:30, the crowd began to grow as protesters who had been marching from UC Berkeley and Berkeley High School reached the plaza and joined the group.
Protests are expected to continue through Friday evening as well as on Saturday, when the Oakland branch of the Women’s March will gather starting at 10 am. Women’s marches are also planned for San Francisco and San Jose.
Oakland North will continue to update this story.