As the nation — and the world — reels following the public release of the Memphis Police Department’s shockingly brutal body camera footage showing five officers savagely beating Tyre Nichols, who later died from his injuries, rallies, marches and vigils have been held across the country. Politicians, law enforcement officials, police unions and protesters are not just condemning the Memphis police officers who were involved, but also drawing attention to systemic violence in law enforcement across the United States.
In Oakland, a city with a long history of deadly confrontations involving law enforcement, a rally and march was held by the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), with hundreds of people in attendance on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Oscar Grant Plaza — named in honor of yet another unarmed Black man who was killed as a result of police violence.
“These things are all too familiar and they happen all the time," said Dayton Andrews, an Oakland resident. "I’m from Los Angeles originally and this is a carbon copy of what happened to Rodney King 30 years ago.”
“The community really has to respond and show that this is unacceptable," said Lisa Eugene, a San Leandro resident. "This is an unacceptable standard of behavior for the police, for police everywhere.”
“We need a place to grieve and to rage … people have a right to be angry,” said Cat Brooks, APTP co-founder, in an interview with KQED. “And I wish people would start saying they're sorry before they tell us to be peaceful. I don't know how I'm not angry watching a grown man scream for his mother as he is pummeled to death by law enforcement. And I don't know how people like me who do this work aren’t angry, because this is one of several deaths that we've responded to this week.”
“It could be me," said Neena Joiner, an Oakland resident and business owner. "As a masculine-of-center person, presenting as masculine-of-center at night, in the daytime, I could be pulled out of my car. It’s been a couple times that I’ve been stopped myself.”
The APTP describes itself as “a Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color, supporting families of victims of police terror in their fight for justice, documenting police abuses and connecting impacted families and community members with resources, legal referrals, and opportunities for healing.”
An emotional and shaken Cat Brooks told KQED that this was not about “a few bad actors” but is about “the whole institution of policing.”
“If we want to tie it locally to why this matters in Oakland, the Oakland Police Department pull over Black people at a rate of 5.3 times higher than their white counterparts. That's a fact that happens in Oakland every single year,” Brooks said. “We've got cops engaging in ghost chases that end up with dead civilians. That's the type of rogue mentality we have of the Oakland Police Department. We are just one stop away from a Tyre Nichols inside of Oakland ... Stop f----ing killing us.”
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao released a statement Friday saying “it is traumatic and it is understandable that Americans all over our nation are angry and disgusted. I hope that the serious charges against the officers who killed him will bring a measure of justice to his family and I know all of Oakland stands with them today.”
Rallies and protests were held across the U.S. over the weekend, as demonstrators chanted slogans and marched in Memphis, New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, at times blocking traffic. In Washington, D.C., protesters gathered across the street from the White House and near Black Lives Matter Plaza.
President Joe Biden issued a statement on Friday, saying, “Public trust is the foundation of public safety, and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken.”
In a statement following the release of the police video Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom and his partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, expressed their “deepest condolences” to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols.
“Tyre Nichols should be alive today. The video released shows abhorrent behavior and these officers must be held accountable for their deadly actions and clear abuse of power,” said Newsom. “Today, we are a country in mourning, and must continue our work nationwide to push reforms to prevent excessive use of force and save lives,”
The Associated Press and KQED’s Dana Cronin, Beth LaBerge and Attila Pelit contributed to this story.