Thousands march in Oakland to reclaim King’s radical legacy

Three thousand people march in the Anti Police-Terror Project’s fifth annual People’s March to Reclaim King’s Radical Legacy on January 21. The event also commemorated the tenth anniversary of the murder of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a BART police officer in 2009.
Three thousand people march in the Anti Police-Terror Project’s fifth annual People’s March to Reclaim King’s Radical Legacy on January 21. The event also commemorated the tenth anniversary of the murder of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a BART police officer in 2009. | Photo: Terri Kay

By Terri Kay

Despite a total corporate media whiteout, 3,000 people turned out in Oakland, California, to participate in the Anti Police-Terror Project’s (APTP) fifth annual People’s March to Reclaim King’s Radical Legacy. This year’s event also commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police murder of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station. APTP held down Oscar Grant Plaza (OGP), in front of city hall in downtown Oakland, for ten hours in honor of Oscar Grant, while also honoring many other mothers of victims of police terror.

From APTP’s press release: “For decades, MLK’s legacy has been whitewashed. Often portrayed as a passive figure, in truth he was a radical leader demanding rational change: an end to capitalism, to war, to empire, to poverty, and to white supremacy. Communities in Oakland and across the country take this opportunity every year to celebrate the true spirit of this revolutionary.”

“The People have had enough. For seven months, we waged a people’s campaign for a just and equitable Oakland. Our campaign galvanized tens of thousands of Oaklanders and most importantly, it did not end in November. We continue that campaign and its demands into the new year,” said Cat Brooks, former Oakland mayoral candidate and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project.

APTP called out the following demands for the event:

  • Justice for all victims of police terror and their families.
  • Housing as a human right: truly affordable housing for all in need, immediate shelter for our unhoused neighbors, and public land for public good.
  • A just economy that works for everyone, puts people over profits, provides living wage jobs with dignity for all, requires corporations to pay their fair share to do business in our cities, and ensures that any development benefits the community.
  • Community-based public safety: invest in prevention, not criminalization; make all police use of force transparent and accountable.
  • Quality education for all: fair pay for teachers. No cuts, no closures, no more charters.
  • Real sanctuary for all: abolish ICE, end criminalization of our most marginalized, and guarantee the safety of all queer, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.
  • Environmental justice: clean, air, water, and safe food supplies for all.
  • Indigenous sovereignty and respect for sacred sites.

The day started with coffee provided by Coffee Not Cops and free breakfast by The Agape Fellowship anti-imperial church, in collaboration with Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church and Phat Beets, who served food from 8am to 6pm, feeding over 500 people.

MLK Oak march youth by Amir Saadiq
Photo: Amir Saadiq

At 9am, there was a youth teach-in and youth march organized by Abundant Beginnings. APTP also organized a healing space during the day staffed by professional healers. At 11am, Third World Resistance, supported by drummers from BoomShake and MassBass, marched around the plaza to round up the crowd for a short program, emceed by Cat Brooks and Nadya Tannous, General Coordinator of the Palestinian Youth Movement. Speakers included Krea Gomez (Indigenous Solidarity), Carlos Martinez (International Migrant Alliance), Troya Wright (Bay Area Black Workers Center), and Keith Brown (President, Oakland Education Association).

The march took off led by the youth and families of victims of police terror. First stop was the Oakland Police Department headquarters on Broadway and 7th Street, where James Burch of APTP talked about the campaign to reduce police use of force. An audio recording by political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, created especially for Martin Luther King Day, was played at the police department as well. Mumia’s words fit right into APTP’s message of reclaiming MLK’s radical legacy, as he emphasized that King was an enemy of the state.

The mothers of Oscar Grant and Sahleem Tindle, slain victims of BART police officers, also attended the event. | Photo: Amir Saadiq

The loud and enthusiastic marchers went on from there to pass the BART police holding facility near Laney College. Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, and Yolanda Banks-Reed, mother of Sahleem Tindle, spoke from the sound truck. (Both young men were killed by BART police; Oscar ten years ago and Sahleem last January.) Next, the march passed the Alameda County Courthouse by Lake Merritt, home to the office of District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who has yet to prosecute a single killer cop.

Sheriff Ahern’s office was next, as the march turned on 14th Street to head back to Oscar Grant Plaza. Lara Kiswani, director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, talked about the victory of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition’s several year struggle to put an end to the largest militarized SWAT training in the world, which was hosted annually by Sheriff Ahern. Jose Bernal (Ella Baker Center) then spoke about the campaign to audit Ahern and expose the inhumane practices at his Santa Rita jail.

MLK Oak sound truck 1 by Terri Kay
Photo: Terri Kay

When the march returned to OGP, Agape was there again with free food. There was the building of a tiny house by The Village and a free people’s concert, headlined by the amazing Jennifer Johns with a surprise guest appearance of Kev Choice. Other wonderful performers included Gina Madrid, Ras Ceylon, WordSlanger, and Claudia Alick.

People then broke out into people’s assemblies by topics, to develop an understanding of what concerns were weighing heaviest in people’s minds and thoughts on how they needed to be addressed. Some of the topics included: Housing & Homelessness, Development & Displacement, Inner Communal Violence, Public Safety & Use of Force Campaign, Oakland Schools & Teachers Strike, and Sanctuary for All.

The evening wrapped with an incredible sunset Guns to Shovels ceremony put together by Lead to Life. The shovels made will be used in tree planting ceremonies in honor of Earth Day, April 2019, where they will plant 50 trees at sites impacted by violence and sacred sites across Oakland.

This post was edited on Jan. 28, 2019. These videos were added:

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