NLG Condemns Oakland’s Attack on the Right to Assemble and Protest

Oakland, CA – Responding to a peaceful protest on the evening of May 21st, the Oakland Police Department immediately forced demonstrators off the street, aggressively encircling them and using amplified sound and other intimidation tactics to interfere with the march against police killings of Black women and trans persons. They appeared to be implementing a new City policy of banning nighttime protests. The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) is disturbed by this illegal restraint on the right of people to assemble and speak out about serious political issues.

The NLGSF believes such preemptive restrictions on protest are both unconstitutional, and in violation of OPD’s own Crowd Control Policy, which was adopted as part of the federal court settlement orders in NLG litigation over 2010 mass arrests of Justice for Oscar Grant protesters and 2011 police attacks on Occupy Oakland. The City of Oakland has paid out more than $10 million in civil rights settlements as a result of unlawful restraints on those and other protests over the last ten years. The Crowd Control Policy spells out when police may lawfully stop a demonstration, and how, and gives OPD the tools they need to protect persons and property, while upholding the right to demonstrate and avoiding further liability to the Oakland taxpayers. NLGSF is prepared to take immediate action to enforce the Crowd Control Policy.

Prohibiting demonstrations at night leaves few alternatives for people, especially working people and students, to speak out about police violence and racism. There is no legitimate justification for such a limitation, and the unlawful policy change being implemented by Mayor Libby Schaaf serves little purpose but to suppress free speech.