Bay Area's George Floyd Protests Ebb After Day and Night of Confrontations With Police

Candace Alsalloom, one of the hundreds who turned out for Friday night's Oakland protest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. The 46-year-old African American man pleaded with a police officer who was kneeling on his neck by saying repeatedly, "I can't breathe."  (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated 1 a.m. Saturday

The first day of major protests in the Bay Area over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police earlier this week ended with widespread property damage in downtown Oakland and an incident in San Jose in which a motorist apparently tried to run over protesters.

Officers in the South Bay city worked late into the evening to break up small groups of demonstrators who gathered early Friday afternoon, blocked one of the city’s freeways, engaged in scattered vandalism and repeatedly confronted police lines.

A night of sporadic skirmishes around downtown San Jose, with some protesters throwing bottles and rocks at police and officers responding with "less lethal" rubber bullets and teargas, was punctuated by an incident in which an SUV drove toward demonstrators and reportedly hit two of them while driving in reverse.

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The condition of the people struck by the vehicle was not immediately known.

In Oakland, a largely peaceful protest took a turn about 9 p.m. when police ordered a crowd that swelled to 500 or more near Police Department headquarters on Broadway to disperse, then fired volleys of flash-bang grenades and tear gas.

Oakland officers acted after some members of the crowd threw bottles toward a police line. Earlier, police had warned the crowd to stop throwing and launching fireworks. Oakland police said in a tweet that several officers were injured by projectiles.

People scattered after police deployed gas and grenades. One large contingent retreated east on 7th Street and gathered between Franklin and Webster streets in Chinatown. By 10:15 p.m., another sizable crowd gathered at 14th and Broadway and were in a standoff with a line of police.

Extensive property damage — rampant graffiti, smashed windows and some ransacked businesses — occurred along Broadway and nearby streets downtown. Late in the evening, a crowd started a fire on Broadway and fed it with debris and construction barricades.

Protesters began gathering at 14th Street and Broadway before 7 p.m. and the beginning of the evening followed what a familiar pattern. Protesters marched from Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza outside City Hall north on Broadway, then doubled back to the Police Department Headquarters. They chanted, "Say his name! George Floyd!" and "Black lives matter!" Some members of the crowd jeered and taunted police.

A demonstrator outside Oakland police headquarters carries a sign carrying the dying words — "I can't breathe" — spoken by George Floyd, the African American man killed May 25 by police in Minneapolis. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Charlotte Smith, who owns a barbershop and salon in downtown Oakland, said she had been waiting for a response to the Floyd killing earlier this week. A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes and persisted even as the 46-year-old African American man pleaded that he couldn't breathe.

"I'm excited people are coming out and saying this is not OK," she said as protesters chanted nearby. "The fact that this officer did not go straight to jail until the people protest, it's an awful shame. The video showed a murder."

Smith said she's the mother of four boys and that what happened to Floyd "should never happen to any black boy, any woman, any minority, any white — it should never happen to anyone. This is America."

A 22-year-old man who identified himself only as Lou said he has spent almost his entire life in Oakland and supported the protests.

"Ever since the Black Panthers we've been protesting — this is not new," he said. "... These protests have been around for forever. This is how you make change."

But describing the scene — "a bunch of officers, riot gear on; a bunch of smoke; trash cans on fire; sirens everywhere; graffiti everywhere" — he called it "just tragic."

Tiffany Walker-Roper said she didn't intend to attend the protest but did so after being delayed in leaving downtown Oakland.

"I decided to stay because this cause is extremely important," Walker-Roper said. "... Black people are just out here trying to survive, and we're tired. We're tired of watching our people get killed. We're tired of the lack of opportunity in our communities. We're tired of these systemic injustices that have created these situations where people who are supposed to be serving and protecting are murdering and maiming."

Michael Houston, who said he moved to Oakland from New York City three years ago, said the protest brought him back to Black Lives Matter in his East Coast hometown.

"It's the same thread that's been occurring since the civil rights movement, since slavery — the inhumane treatment of black people around the world," Houston said.

He said that when he saw the wall of police officer clad in riot gear, he wanted to ask them, "What do you think of this situation? Regardless of your job, what do you think in a moral position, of what's happening. And really have a face to face conversation."

Separately Friday night, Oakland police said they were investigating the shooting of two security guards near the intersection of 12th and Clay streets. Although demonstrators were near the corner at the time of the shooting, police said in a tweet that they did not believe the incident was related to the protest.

Prior to the confrontation outside police headquarters, dozens of protesters used the Jackson Street onramp to get onto Interstate 880. Traffic on the freeway was halted in both directions for about half an hour.

The closure of I-880 marked the third time during the day that a major highway artery was shut down due to the George Floyd protests.

At midafternoon Friday, about 100 people surged onto U.S. 101 at the Alum Rock/Santa Clara Street exit, stopping all traffic for about an hour. Early Friday evening, a coordinated effort by protesters driving on the Bay Bridge blocked all upper deck lanes several times, intermittently shutting down the flow of traffic into San Francisco.

Among those who came into the streets for the San Jose protest was Daniel Dominguez, a lifelong city resident who said he was struck by a rubber bullet while waving a Mexican flag.

"We're representing black and brown lives," he said. "We know the struggle that black lives go through every day. Brown — we do the same thing. We go through everyday struggles with the police."

KQED's Julie Chang, Adhiti Bandlamuti, Shannon Lin, Beth LaBerge and Lakshmi Sarah contributed to this report.

Earlier updates to this story follow.

Update, 9:05 p.m. Friday: Developments in Bay Area demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police:

  • Oakland: Several dozen protesters in downtown eluded police and made it up the Jackson Street on-ramp onto Interstate 880, halting traffic in both directions. A police line held a bigger group back at the foot of the ramp.

  • Oakland: KQED's Joe Fitz Rodriguez reports that police warned protesters to stop throwing and launching fireworks — or the demonstration would declared unlawful.

  • Update, 8:05 p.m. Friday:

    • San Francisco: Protesters driving on the Bay Bridge succeeded several times in briefly shutting down traffic on the upper, westbound deck of the span starting shortly after 7:30 p.m.

  • Oakland: A crowd that KQED's Alex Emslie says has grown to several hundred marched up Broadway from 14th Street, then reversed course and headed back south to 7th Street, outside Oakland Police Department headquarters.https://twitter.com/SFNewsReporter/status/1266562874643607552
  • San Jose: Police and crowds of protesters continue to be engaged in a slow-motion march through the downtown district. Police have deployed flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and projectiles from "less lethal" shotgun-type weapons as small groups of protesters throw bottles, rocks and other objects at officers. Several Dumpsters have been set on fire in the downtown area.https://twitter.com/fiona_kelliher/status/1266540718853550080
  • Original post

    Updated 7:05 p.m Friday, May 29

    A crowd protesting the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police earlier this week stopped traffic on U.S. 101 in San Jose on Friday afternoon and then marched on City Hall.

    Protesters halted both northbound and southbound traffic at Alum Rock Avenue, bringing the highway to a standstill for more than an hour. After the freeway was cleared, protesters moved down Santa Clara Street toward downtown.

    The situation grew tense just after 5 p.m. as a group of about 100 demonstrators stood face-to-face with a line of dozens of San Jose police officers at the corner of Santa Clara and Seventh streets, a block from City Hall.

    As bottles and other objects were thrown toward the police line, officers responded by firing what appeared to be "less lethal" projectiles at the feet of members of the crowd. In one case, officers were seen fighting with a man who approached the police line.

    As the confrontation continued, police issued repeated warnings that the gathering was unlawful and used tear gas to try to disperse the crowd. Protesters chanted, "Black Lives Matter," and at one point dozens of them knelt on Santa Clara Street in front of advancing officers.

    The crowd grew steadily and by 6:30 appeared on lived televised coverage to be at least 200, with the focus of the event shifted to the block in front of City Hall.

    Police at San Jose State University, adjacent to downtown, issued a warning about "protesting and rioting" and urged those on campus to shelter in place.

    The demonstration was the prelude to what is expected to be a weekend of protest around the Bay Area over the death of Floyd, a black man, who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. That officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.

    A gathering was called for 8 p.m. Friday night at Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza outside Oakland's City Hall. Other events were planned for Saturday and Sunday.

    Some downtown Oakland businesses boarded up in advance of the Friday night event, and small a group of 50 to 100 people had gathered at the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway before 7 p.m.

    Oakland Police Chief Susan Manheimer said during an afternoon media briefing that the department and the city's leaders "stand with our community" in responding to Floyd's killing.

    "We stand with the community in denouncing this incident — our entire city does — and all incidents of police brutality," Manheim said. She said the department's role "is to create safe places" for protest.

    Nevertheless, she cautioned that police would respond to acts of violence or vandalism.

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    "OPD will have to take enforcement action if in fact there is damage to property or to the safe and peaceful demonstration of (protesters') voices," Manheimer said. She added, "We hope not to become the story tonight."