An activist group known as the Anti Police-Terror Project that had previously gained attention by blockading The Home Depot, swarmed Emeryville council chambers at Tuesday’s meeting. Protesters utilized the open public comment period to draw attention to the plight of Yuvette Henderson, who was killed in an officer involved shooting last February.
Cat Brooks and the brother of Yuvette Henderson were both on hand at Tuesday’s Meeting.
There were some tense moments as protesters vented their frustrations at council on several occasions. “How “f*cking dare you bring somebody in here and talk about naming a street after this dude (referring to an agenda item honoring a retired member of staff)?” shouted one protester who identified himself as Leano. “With all due respect to him, but we are talking about somebody who was just murdered by your police department!”
High-profile speakers included APTP cofounder Cat Brooks and former Oakland Mayoral candidate Dan Siegel, who is a civil-rights attorney representing the Henderson family. Siegel recently represented the family of Alan Blueford who was killed in a 2012 officer involved shooting. Blueford was on felony probation for a robbery and in possession of a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol when he was pursued and shot by OPD Officer Miguel Masso. Blueford’s family settled with the Oakland PD before the case went to trial for $110,000. Mr. Siegel has already presented a claim to the City of Emeryville on behalf of Ms. Henderson’s estate and her family but the claim was rejected by Council. The claims process is a preliminary step that must be taken before a lawsuit can be filed according to City Attorney Michael Guina.
Brooks has made a name for herself and emerged as a prominent local organizer of the Black Lives Matter movement with a recent appearance on KQED’s Forum and has played a key role in staging high-profile protests including the halted San Francisco-bound BART train on Black Friday in 2014. The 39-year-old Oakland resident also goes by her given name Sheilagh Polk.
The more than a full hour of comments concluded with Leano angrily shouting at Vice Mayor Nora Davis and the rest of council, members of staff (including Planning & Building Director Charlie Bryant) and those in attendance. “You Nora Davis Vice Mayor who has been looking everywhere except the eyes and hearts of the people!” Davis nervously laughed off the disruption. “Demilitarize your police or we will” concluded Leano. Mayor Ruth Atkin was excused with a scheduled absence.
Most of the protesters urged Council to advocate for the Alameda County Coroner’s Office to release the Coroner’s report and for council to “demilitarize” our police department who are outfitted with civilian semi-automatic rifles. The case resides with the City of Oakland as this is where the incident occurred and because of Oakland’s limited resources and numerous pending cases, these reports can reportedly take anywhere from six months to an entire year.
To clarify some misinformation about the case, the weapon used by police was an AR-15 not an AK-47 as reported by some other media channels and speakers (An AK-47 is a Russian made assault rifle often associated with guerrilla organizations). Nobody in the crowd seemed aware that Yuvette was [allegedly] in possession of a loaded weapon which was verified by the Home Depot loss prevention officer, several attempted carjacking witnesses and EPD officers Michelle Shepherd & Warren Williams. The loaded revolver was recovered at the scene. This recent East Bay Express article written by staff writer Darwin BondGraham in fact referred to her death by police “after she allegedly shoplifted” and made no mention of the weapon in her possession or circumstances.
One of the points of contention seem to be if in fact Yuvette pointed the gun at the officers and her refusal to stand down as the officers have testified and if she could have been detained without the use of lethal force. Some speakers indicated that a possible head injury suffered during the confrontation at Home Depot could account for her behavior.