Teachers and parents in Oakland are crying police brutality after they stormed a recent school board meeting to protest privatization and charter schools in the district.
Oakland Unified School District officials erected metal barriers between the public and school board members ahead of a meeting Wednesday after several prior protests, but the temporary structures weren’t enough to hold back the mob of parents, teachers, and union members who easily blasted past and stormed the stage, the East Bay Times reports.
More than dozen police officers and security guards attempted to keep the crowd under control with billy clubs and pepper spray. Officers eventually arrested six of the protestors, including some who are now alleging police attacked unprovoked and left them with serious injuries.
— AliJ (@OwdensMama) October 24, 2019
“Oakland PS arresting PARENTS at an OUSD School Board meeting,” parent AliJ posted to Twitter with a video. “Excessive force. No one touched anyone! Peaceful protest. HELP make this go viral!! SHAME @OUSDNews”
Here’s abuse of power in your backyard. Oakland PD using batons and pepper spray against ELEMENTARY parents and teachers peacefully protesting to stop school closures. Who will stand up for the children of Oakland against this corrupt school Board and @SupKylaOUSD pic.twitter.com/cMQF6EyNlr
— AliJ (@OwdensMama) October 24, 2019
“Here’s abuse of power in your backyard,” the activist mom wrote in another video post. “Oakland PS using batons and pepper spray against ELEMENTARY parents and teachers peacefully protesting to stop school closures. Who will stand up for the children of Oakland against this corrupt school Board and @SupKylaOUSD”
The Wednesday night meeting at La Escuelita education center started around 6:30 p.m., when one of the agitators addressed the school board with a series of demands.
“I’m speaking on behalf of Oakland is Not For Sale. We’re a coalition of parents, teachers, students and community members with the following demands,” the woman said as a large crowd of protestors approached the barricades.
Police and school security guards lined up on the other side as she continued.
“Scrap the failed blueprint process and declare a moratorium on all school consolidations and closures until the summer 2022. Close the school to prison pipeline. Do not fund a new $70 million Alameda County probation camp, where 40 percent of students are from Oakland and instead of fully funded Oakland traditional public schools,” the speaker demanded.
The group told the school board to “fight back” against the “charter school takeover” – essentially the district’s plan to reverse decades of failure, mismanagement and embarrassingly poor student performance. The speaker also demanded officials give parents influence over the district’s budget and issued a threat if the group doesn’t get its way.
Please note: violent video. This is how OUSD teachers were treated at the SCHOOL BOARD MEETING tonight. Spread the word! Violent maneuvers are being used to silence teachers in Oakland! #nomoreschoolclosures pic.twitter.com/DkKynmMYcD
— MeliGene (@MGLuna333) October 24, 2019
“We will continue to disrupt these meetings and there will be no more business as usual,” the woman shouted to a roaring applause. Several in the mob then jumped over the barriers, while others pulled them down as police and security attempted to keep them off the stage with board members.
Video shows several protestors charge at officers while several women screamed hysterically.
“You’re hurting my leg, ahhhhhh,” one of the protesters yelled at police, while many others chanted loudly: “Oakland is not for sale.”
Some of the “activists” attempted to unfurl a banner on stage but were quickly arrested.
— Eric Blanc (@_ericblanc) October 24, 2019
Board members scurried from the stage, while some activists thrashed wildly with officers attempting to detain them. More than a half-dozen protesting recorded the melee with their phones, as others yelled at police and rammed them with the barricades.
Police returned the favor with pepper spray. Officers also shoved others to the ground and used takedown holds to place some under arrest. At one point, an overweight middle aged man got tangled in the barrier as he tussled with about five police officers.
“That’s our librarian!” a woman screamed. “Noooooo! That’s our librarian!”
Saru Jayaraman, one of the protestors who decided to bring her two young children with her to the violent board meeting, told KTVU police put her arms behind her back when they arrested her, and it hurt.
She contends police also banged her knee on the floor before officers carried her out and to an awaiting ambulance.
“I am a tiny person who does not require four police officers to hold me to the ground and carry me out,” she complained. “It doesn’t take a lot of force to hurt me, which is what happened.”
“Yes we were trying to disrupt the meeting,” Jayaraman said. “We’re parents with little children who were with us, we’re not trying to fight anyone, we’re trying to be heard.”
The teachers union, which supports the anti-privitization agenda, blamed school and police officials for attempting to control the situation.
“Last night, OUSD police pushed, choked and clubbed peaceful elementary school parents and educators who were protesting school closures,” Oakland Education Association Vice President Chaz Garcia told the television station in a prepared statement. “We hold the OUSD Board of Directors and Superintendent (Kyla) Johnson-Trammell responsible for setting the stage for this violence by erecting barricades, and for the actions of their police force.”
The blowup follows about a month after the OUSD board voted to close Kaiser Elementary School, one of about two dozen in the district identified for closure to address declines in enrollment and state funding. District officials estimate there’s currently 11,000 empty seats in schools districtwide, KTVU reports.
District officials told the media they erected the barriers at the board meeting after increasingly aggressive protests and several meetings in recent weeks. The barrier, spokesman John Sasaki told the Times, was a precaution to protect the pregnant school board president.
“We were very concerned about her safety,” Sasaki said.
“We appreciate and support people in Oakland and their right to protest. We appreciate that, in some cases, they want to express displeasure with decisions made by the board of education,” Sasaki said.
“At the same time, the board of education has to conduct its business and they have to do it in a safe environment. That’s why a barricade was set up.”
In the end, the protest really didn’t accomplish much. Superintendent Johnson-Trammell told KTVU a moratorium on school closures is impossible with the district’s dire financial situation. Despite the protest, board members did continue “business as usual” in a secure room with video of the meeting livestreamed to spectators who remained after the blowup.
“What happened last night is troubling and is not reflective of who we are as a community,” says @SupKylaOUSD after protesters, upset about decision to close Kaiser Elementary, again disrupt @OUSDNews board meeting. 6 cited & released by @OUSD_Police pic.twitter.com/5Ryzbwz6zs
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) October 25, 2019
“What happened last night is troubling and is not reflective of who we are as a community,” the superintendent said.