Hundreds of protesters marched through Oakland on Saturday night, with some briefly blocking traffic on the Interstate 580 freeway in what organizers called an “emergency solidarity” demonstration in response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia that left one woman dead and many injured.
The woman was killed when a car plunged into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally.
The rally was largely peaceful, although police gave the order to disperse shortly after 9:30 p.m. when about three dozen protesters moved up the I-580 off-ramp at Grand Avenue and then linked hands on the freeway to stop traffic. Others then launched illegal fireworks into the air.
Traffic was completely blocked for a time on the freeway as police stopped traffic to avoid hitting the protesters. After several minutes, the protesters left the freeway and continued marching on city streets as motorists honked support.
Police later blocked Broadway as a few hundred protesters moved back into the downtown area, which kept the march from heading toward North Oakland or Berkeley.
Protesters began gathering near Frank Ozawa Plaza in downtown Oakland at 7 p.m. for speeches as a handful of police officers watched nearby.
Just over an hour later, several hundred protesters, including families with young children, began marching through city streets and around Lake Merritt.
Many of those present expressed words of respect for their “comrade” who died, and many called for marchers to protest peacefully. At times tempers flared during the march, with protesters decrying President Trump and the white nationalist rally in Virginia, but there were also somber moments to mourn the victims of white supremacy, past and present.
“My grandparents marched back in the day,” said Jerrod Anthony, a 25-year-old rapper and artist from Concord, adding that he was disgusted by the events in Virginia. “I like to think of all who came before us who gave us the right to be here. It wasn’t too long ago we couldn’t sit at the front of the bus.”
Dozens of law enforcement officers from the Oakland and BART police departments, as well as the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, stayed nearby, but gave the protesters a wide berth in the first hours of the march.
Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, whose members were among those in the crowd, said the same issues of racism and bigotry on display in Charlottesville afflict Oakland, too, pointing to high-profile cases of officer misconduct and police shootings in the city.
“I don’t have an answer for the images from 1952 translating to 2017,” she said. “Nothing has changed. This is America unmasked.”
A banner leading the march called on protesters to “Mourn the Dead (and) Fight Like Hell for the Living.”
Earlier in the day, Bay Area politicians were among the flood of officials condemning the bloody clashes in Charlottesville and President Trump’s equivocal response, in which he did not single out neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan or white nationalists, insisting that “hatred, bigotry and violence” were coming from “many sides.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, called the violence an “act of terror.”
“The vile beliefs of the perpetrators of this violence insult our fundamental American values and must be condemned in the strongest terms,” she said. “The president’s talk of violence on ‘many sides’ ignores the shameful reality of white supremacism in our country today and continues a disturbing pattern of complacency around such acts of hate.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted: “We reject hate & bigotry in our communities.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, also took to Twitter to condemn the violence.
“Make no mistake: The white supremacists in #Charlottesville feel emboldened by the Trump Admin,” she said. “All Americans must condemn this bigotry.”
In Berkeley, Mayor Jesse Arreguin called the violence “horrifying.”
“We cannot stand by and watch while neo-Nazis, the Klan and other extremist groups, who have been emboldened by our president, take over U.S. cities,” he said. “Berkeley stands in solidarity against bigotry, hate and white supremacy and support those who embrace peaceful assembly and debate.”
In San Francisco, word of the violence in Virginia spread through the crowds at Outside Lands music festival. Early afternoon performers Joseph — a Oregon folk trio made up of sisters Allison, Meegan and Natalie Closner — acknowledged the victims.
“We are thinking about Charlottesville today,” Natalie Closner said from the Sutro stage in Lindley Meadow. “It’s a scary time we are in. We need to come together.”
Later in the day, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith condemned the act and expressed his gratitude for the ability to play for such a peaceful crowd.
“I’m able to celebrate love and connection and music,” he said. “Thank you for reminding me, and for reminding all of us, what it’s really all about and how easy it actually is to love each other.”
Chronicle staff writer Mariecar Mendoza contributed to this report.
Kimberly Veklerov, Michael Bodley and Jill Tucker are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @kveklerov, @jilltucker, @michael_bodley