Cat Brooks, co-founder of Anti Police-Terror Project, speaks before a Martin Luther King Day car caravan leaves Middle Harbor Shoreline Park near the Port of Oakland on Jan. 18, 2021. (BethLaBerge/KQED)
A man holding a rifle approached a mass car caravan in Alameda that was honoring “the radical legacy” of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday afternoon.
The caravan shut down its protest earlier than intended at the home of Alameda District Attorney Nancy O'Malley when organizers warned participants that the man was seen standing with a rifle nearby.
"I was scared, I was fearful for my life," 68-year-old protester Melody Davis told KQED. She said the man shouted at protesters to leave.
There is no indication the man discharged his weapon, nor were any injuries reported. Requests for comments have gone unanswered by both the district attorney's office as well as the Alameda Police Department.
The mass caravan, organized by a coalition called the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by demanding that the Oakland Police Department reinvest their budget into other community resources like community violence prevention and restorative justice.
APTP founder Cat Brooks said the annual protest march, which became a car caravan because of COVID-19, is a call to continue King's legacy as a radical change maker.
"We want our communities refunded, we want our neighborhoods restored and we want us to collectively engage in this process of reimagining what a just society looks like," Brooks said.
Responding to the presence of the armed man, Brooks said, “it’s clear that white supremacy is ending right now. It’s gasping for its last breath, and we’re going to continue to do our work and suffocate it ... Oakland is the place to lead that charge and that movement, and we did that today.”
After starting their protest at the Port of Oakland, where families and people on rollerblades and bikes gathered, hundreds of cars made their way to the island of Alameda to O’Malley’s home.
In speeches at the rally, several protesters demanded accountability for the 2009 death of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by a BART police officer.
As protesters gathered near O'Malley's house, giving speeches about police brutality and honking their horns, a man with a rifle emerged. Some protesters presumed that he was a resident of the neighborhood.
This person with a rifle came out yelling, "Get out of my fucking neighborhood," over and over until confronted by caravan security, then walked away. Nancy's neighbor. pic.twitter.com/o6eQ87dukZ
Davis, who brought her granddaughter Jazzmine Hazzard to the protest, said she heard the man threatening the crowd to "get out of here."
In a video provided by Hazzard to a KQED reporter at the scene of the caravan, a handful of people can be seen approaching the man who allegedly had a rifle. He walks away from them. A person can be heard on the video saying the man "got a rifle."
Brooks, the protest organizer, said members of the Community Ready Corps spoke to the man wielding the gun and organizers used a radio frequency, which had been in place to direct people along the route, to tell everyone to disperse. “The people did what the people do,” Brooks said, “and calmly and safely exited the area.”
Brooks told KQED "we won today," and that the man’s actions didn’t prevent organizers from finishing their planned remarks in front of DA Nancy O’Malley’s house: “I stayed in my position, and we finished our program. We did what we came to do despite his efforts.”
Despite the apparent threat, the scene was relatively calm as people slowly made their way out of the neighborhood.
"The movement continues and it will continue," Brooks said.
KQED's Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.
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