Community organizers occupying Parker Elementary School in East Oakland demanded answers from the school district on Friday, a day after district security forces attempted to remove them from the premises in what witnesses described as a violent altercation.
Among those involved in the Thursday evening incident was Max Orozco, an Oakland parent-organizer and school board candidate. He said Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) security officers handcuffed and detained him at the scene in what he called "an attack."
According to eyewitnesses, he was held inside for nearly two hours as nearly 60 people gathered outside demanding his release.
Parker is among the 11 city schools that the district in February chose to permanently close or merge due to budget issues. The school was officially shuttered May 25.
But a group of parents and students who staunchly oppose the closure took over the building in early June. Since then, members of the “Parker Liberation,” as the group calls itself, have been living inside the building and hosting a community-run summer school — part of an effort that organizers say echoes the work of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s.
Multiple people involved in the incident said they responded to a message on social media alerting the community that district security guards were forcefully preventing people from entering the building.
After officers eventually reopened the building, “the staff were just violent with community members, just pushing and punching,” said community organizer Pecolia Manigo. “There were people harmed, physically beaten today, and that was not OK."
"I'm really proud of our community for a quick response — that people came and saw and witnessed the violence that these OUSD event staff were executing with ... it was unnecessary," she added. "And I hope that we can have a better conversation about our police-free schools, and making sure anybody that's representing and/or on the payroll of our district is not violent toward our community members."