Protesters who say they want to reclaim the radical legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. rallied for a couple of hours Monday morning outside the home of new Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
The crowd gathered at 5 a.m. Around 40 demonstrators chanted, "Turn it up, don't turn it down, we do this for Mike Brown."
Demonstrators also danced and held vigils for local residents killed by police. They stood with fists raised while speeches from Martin Luther King Jr. played on a speaker, including his famous "A Time to Break Silence" address, criticizing the Vietnam War.
The protesters said they take issue with the mayor spending her first day in office with the police department. Some said they did not like the way Schaaf dealt with officer-involved shootings when she was on the City Council.
Bay Area News Group reported that demonstrators drew outlines of bodies in the street. From the report:
They also rang her doorbell and handed her husband a list of demands that include dismantling the Oakland school district's police force, ending paid leave for city officers being investigated in questionable shootings, overhauling a state law that limits public access to police personnel records, and ending ties with Israel.
One protester, Xan West, said she came to "pray for Libby and bring a change to our neighborhoods."
West says Schaaf's focus on crime sends a clear message that she intends to invest in policing rather than infrastructure and economic development in communities that need it the most. That does little to honor the values of King, protesters said.
"Martin Luther King is a victim of identity theft," said West. "The way that he's portrayed is very much that he's this meek and mild character who just sought justice through peaceful means, which is very true. But he was not meek and mild. He used nonviolent direct action. And so we're here to reclaim that spirit of nonviolent direct action and say, 'Libby, you have no right to hold onto his legacy, you don't do anything to uphold what he stood for … and we're bringing that to her front doorstep.'"
Police were present but did not disperse the crowd. Several neighbors came outside to view the action.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that an elderly woman living across the street from Schaaf "voiced displeasure" at the protest, after which a demonstrator apologized to her.
So what did Schaaf have to say? From the Bay Area News Group:
"I'm happy to meet with people about the city's business in City Hall during normal hours," Schaaf said after the protest, as she traveled between events commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. ...
Schaaf said her children, ages 7 and 9, slept through much of the protest and that she and her husband tried to make it a teachable moment for them.
"I am sorry that it disturbed my neighbors, but I appreciate that we live in a country where people are free to protest and express their passionate politics," she said.
Jon Brooks contributed to this report.