With their tent encampment still intact despite a city eviction order, hundreds of people from the Occupy Oakland protest marched through the streets of Oakland on Saturday afternoon, stopping traffic as they waved flags, danced and chanted.
The march began at Frank Ogawa Plaza, where protesters have been camping out since October 11 in protest of economic inequality and the federal bailout of Wall Street banks. Marchers continued down 14th Street, then along Harrison and by Lake Merritt, before pausing in front of the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market. A group of people playing brass instruments played as people danced, passerbyers stopped to gawk, and customers in businesses and restaurants along the march route stopped what they were doing to see where the noise was coming from.
The march followed a City Hall steps rally that featured more than two dozen speakers, including National Nurses United union representatives and retired teachers. Two Oakland police cars drove ahead of the crowd, halting traffic in both directions, as the marchers crossed Broadway, chanting, “Every hour, every day, the occupation is here to stay!” and “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”
The crowd appeared to Oakland North reporters to number about 700 protesters, dozens of them carrying signs with inscriptions like “Tax Wall Street,” as well as black flags and a large sign that read “Revolt for a life worth living.”
“I’m here because of economic injustice in the whole American system,” said a 23 year-old St. Mary’s College student named Connor, who declined to give his last name and was carrying a sign that read “$20,000 in student loans, 0 job prospects.”
“The system doesn’t work,” Connor said, ”and it needs to be flipped upside down.”
By midafternoon, the protest march was still continuing through the streets of downtown Oakland, with the crowd heading back to the tent city at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Some protesters stopped at Chase Bank on Lakeshore Drive and ripped up deposit slips before police barricaded the doors.
“Let them go! Let them go!” chanted protestors.
“We’re not holding them. They can leave anytime,” responded one of the officers, who said the police were trying to keep protestors out of the bank, not trapped inside.
The crowd was persistent. Police ultimately opened the door for the protestors to be let out, and shook their hands as they exited. There was a cry of jubilation as someone announced over the megaphone that the moment was a “victory.” Some protestors stayed behind to clean up the mess, as the rest of those marching continued to work their way around Lake Merritt.
The march concluded at about 3:30 p.m. back at Frank Ogawa Plaza, where Saturday marked the 12th straight day of ongoing demonstrations in front of City Hall. On Thursday, the estimated 550 people camped out the plaza received an evacuation notice from the City Administrator’s Office. But no action to remove the protesters had been taken by Saturday afternoon. While the march was underway, a crowd of a few dozen remained at the tent city, playing music and talking to one another without much of a visible police presence.
Oakland North reporters Byrhonda Lyons, Mariel Waloff, Dylan Bergeson and Amina Waheed contributed to this report.
Oakland North will continue to update this story throughout the weekend.