Oakland protesters set fire to courthouse

A protest through the streets of downtown Oakland, California, in support of racial justice and police reform turned violent when a small group of demonstrators wearing helmets and goggles and carrying large signs that doubled as shields set fire to a courthouse, vandalized a police station and shot fireworks at officers, authorities said.

A protester wrapped in an American flag spray painted with "Black Lives Matter" marches down a street during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
 A protester wrapped in an American flag spray painted with “Black Lives Matter” marches down a street during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said.
A man sits behind a broken glass from a window at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, July 26, 2020. A protest through the streets of downtown Oakland, California, in support of racial justice and police reform turned violent when "agitators" among the demonstrators set fire to a courthouse, vandalized a police station and shot fireworks at officers, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A man sits behind a broken glass from a window at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, July 26, 2020. A protest through the streets of downtown Oakland, California, in support of racial justice and police reform turned violent when “agitators” among the demonstrators set fire to a courthouse, vandalized a police station and shot fireworks at officers, authorities said.

About 700 demonstrators participated in what started as a peaceful march Saturday night but then some broke from the larger group and smashed windows, spray-painted graffiti and pointed lasers at officers, said Officer Johnna Watson, an Oakland Police Department spokesperson.

Police chase after protesters who refused to disperse at a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Police chase after protesters who refused to disperse at a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said.

Several fires were set in the downtown area, including one at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse that was quickly contained. Demonstrators hurled rocks, ceramic paint-filled balls and frozen water bottles through windows at the courthouse, federal building and police building in a raucous night that was unlike peaceful marches that have taken place in the city in recent weeks, Watson said.

Protesters watch a flare inside of a federal building during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Protesters watch a flare inside of a federal building during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said.

“This was different,” Watson said. “This group of protesters had specific intentions to participate in one way or another — whether that’s carrying backpacks in with clearly very heavy items, and the smaller group would actually be engaged in doing the damage — there is a nexus with all of the attendees.”

A Citibank is vandalized during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A Citibank is vandalized during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said.

Police made several arrests but did not provide details. There were no immediate reports of injuries to protesters or officers or immediate cost estimates of the vandalism, Watson said.

A protester holds a sign calling for the defunding of police at a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
A protester holds a sign calling for the defunding of police at a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said.

The protest began earlier Saturday evening with groups such as the “Wall of Moms,” similar to a group that formed in Portland, Oregon, as protesters faced off with U.S. agents deployed to that city to guard a federal courthouse. President Donald Trump had sent the federal agents there to clamp down on protests that have occurred nightly since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

A protester holds a sign condemning the presence of federal officers in the city of Oakland during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
 A protester holds a sign condemning the presence of federal officers in the city of Oakland during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said.

As the night wore on in Oakland, Watson said police called on demonstrators to disperse and little by little they did, but said they would be back.

Protesters light fireworks in the middle of downtown Oakland during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
Protesters light fireworks in the middle of downtown Oakland during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said.

“The city is here to provide safe places and safe spaces for demonstrations, for marches, for protests,” Watson said, adding that many area businesses were likely spared damage because they were already boarded up following earlier demonstrations. “However, when there is violence against the police or first responders, this makes it dangerous for everyone.”

Protesters hold a Black Lives Matter flag during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
 Protesters hold a Black Lives Matter flag during a protest on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. 

On Sunday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned in a statement that the vandalism could be used by Trump to justify sending federal agents to the city — a proposal that she has rejected.

A protester holds a homemade riot shield during a protest in front of the Oakland Police Department Station on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said. (AP Photo/Christian Monterrosa)
 A protester holds a homemade riot shield during a protest in front of the Oakland Police Department Station on Saturday, July 25, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified late Saturday, Oakland police said

“We celebrate passionate protest but Oaklanders need to know that when they attend protests after dark, they may be providing cover for agitators who are more intent on stoking civil unrest than advancing racial justice,” Schaaf said.

Associated Press