Protest in Oakland, Night 2; I wasn’t expecting that.
Helicopter buzzards hung above Oakland tonight, again. I barely slept last night, was dead on my feet at 5:00 this afternoon, was freezing, and still kind of hungry after finishing my leftovers. I didn’t really feel like going out to monitor the protest again tonight. But I believe something important is going on in America right now, a nation crying out for change, for hope, for progress, so I added a thicker layer and rode downtown.
Hipsters sipping cocktails where last night wafted clouds of tear gas, but those rotary buzzards drew me to Telegraph Ave, where crowds stood around, calmer than last night. It just felt like a lot of spectators. Fine with me, I wanted a short night.
The police seemed edgier, with some rushing around with guns leveled at people, the way the military guys on TV said one should never do. But things seemed to calm down. The police cleared Telegraph, and I let them, moving to a cross street, 40th Ave.
Then I saw it. Some jackass had brought a circular saw blade. I’d been surreptitiously kicking chunks of asphalt into the bushes all night, lest some hothead be tempted to throw them through a cruiser’s window, or worse yet, at a cop. But this? Best case scenario: someone would blow out a tire tomorrow. Worst case scenario: someone lost in anger and mayhem might throw it at a cop. But if I picked it up, touched it, might they bust me for possession of a weapon? That quantity of police presence makes you think about such things.
I took of photo of it in situ, just in case, then picked it up, two steps, and tossed it into the burned-out wreckage of a dumpster. Phwew, that was as intense as the night was going to get.
The cops decided to move us further down 40th, and I complied, walking when they walked, then when they cried “double time!” I jogged ahead of them to stay out of the way. We reached a crosswalk and the order to “hold up” rang out. I crossed over to my side and slowed to a walk.
I was only a couple blocks from my most famous friend, a travel writer who inspired me to the craft. I considered texting to see if he wanted to come out, but was exhausted and wanted to go home, so was considering how to loop around to reclaim my bicycle.
That’s when they arrested me.
A deputy chief, scalp shiny as the skinheads of nightmare, charged towards me shouting “YOU! You’re under arrest! You are under arrest!” I thought he was talking about the teenager behind me, who had been sandbagging a bit when the cops pushed us down the street, which seemed unfair, but no, he was talking about me, charging at me. I was under arrest for being in the area of an unlawful assembly, penal code 409. It was illegal for me to be on the public sidewalk.
Two officers stepped forward and pinned my arms at my sides. Took me to a van, hands against it, thorough search, zip-corded my hands behind my back. I spoke with them respectfully, letting them know I was not going to cause any trouble, just as I had not all night. They marched me to a shattered bus stop where half a dozen kids sat with hands pinned behind their backs.
They were going to take us to the prisoner bus. Except no one knew where it was. They loaded us in a van at 10:28, and at 10:57 we had circled back to our original location. My shoulders were hurting, hands going numb, and, of course, I had to pee.
My comrades seemed like good guys. Former pacifists, conscientious objectors to facets of our culture, but I got the feeling that over the years, they’ve seen their protests ignored, brushed aside, and now arrested. The guy next to me had committed the same crime I had: walking. He’d gotten off BART, and was trying to figure out how to get to his house when the same deputy chief arrested him.
I’d spent the night, the day, the next night, defending the police, reminding people that they are not all the racist, violent, aggressive caricatures of pop lore. The assholes, basically. Sure, there are some among them who are inherent bullies, who were going to be on one side of a police altercation if not the other, bad seeds, just as there were bad seeds among the protesters. But all it takes is one…
Eventually they gave up on the bus and drove us to a processing station across Oakland. Took my photo against the van, and I signed my form on the hood of a cruiser. I am due to appear in court on December 26. Merry Christmas, America.
Thoughts are overflowing my brain, but the whole thing is buzzing like a fluorescent lightbulb, so I’m going to bed. I hope that’s still legal.