Jack London Square

Same social commentary, adapted protest style

On December 4, 1969, Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were gunned down by 14 police officers in their Chicago apartment. Police described the event as "a fierce gun battle" but ballistics later determined that only one bullet fired came from a BP gun. Charges against all officers were eventually dismissed.
One month and 45 years later, in the birthplace for the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, #BlackBrunch demonstrators marched through the gentrified Jack London Square area. This was not the first "Black Brunch" in Oakland but it was the first to gain widespread media attention outside of Twitter and YouTube. It was the first Sunday of the new year when LA Times reporter Lee Romney followed "three dozen African American activists—clad in black" in to restaurant after restaurant around the square.
Over a megaphone one member would say "Every 28 hours, a black person in America is killed by police, a security guard, or a self-anointed vigilante. These are our brothers and sisters, our families. Today and every day we honor their stolen lives." And then other members of the peaceful protest would read names ad ages of black people killed by police followed by "ashe" (amen). They would ask diners to stand in solidarity — some did and some did not —and then move on to the next restaurant. Romney's article cites various responses from restaurant patrons and staff. Some were all for the protest while others dismissed their words, wanting to get on with their breakfast in peace.
Since the first #BlackBrunch demonstrations, groups from across the country have taken the same approach. They aren't always reading names. sometimes they focus on a particular victim and give the facts of their death.
The Black Panther Party demonstrated against police brutality, too, and also received widespread criticism. In fact, J. Edgar Hoover, when he was head of the FBI, described the Party as "the number one threat to the internal security of the united states." A full FBI investigation was launched and continued for years. This reaction was in large part due to the party's patrolling of the police and exercising their constitutional right to bear arms. The group responded to criticism by pointing out the hypocrisy of allowing concealed carry for whites but having increased concerns when blacks did the same thing.
Now, while the nature of police brutality protests have changed, arguments against such movements take an eerily similar approach to the 1960s and 70s. In fact, #BlackLivesMatter leaders Netta Elzie and Deray McKesson discovered in August 2015 that they had been under surveilance by the cybersecurity firm ZeroFox. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake's chief of staff and the president of the Maryland chapter of an FBI intelligence partnership program sought such surveilance after deciding #BlackLivesMatter protests were an internal security threat to Baltimore. In addition, a main counterargument to #BlackLivesMatter and events like #BlackBrunch is that "black on black crime" is more of an issue than police brutality. But as scholar and activist Michael Eric Dyson said, "Black people who kill black people go to jail; white people who are police men who kill black people do not go to jail."

Access Information:

Location is approximate

Street Address:

Embarcadero West, Oakland, CA 94607 [map]

Cite this Page:

Camille J. Brown, “Jack London Square,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 12, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/91.

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