About three dozen Occupy Oakland demonstrators marched from Lake Merritt to an Oakland City Council member's home Monday evening to object to a proposal that would make it a crime to carry shields and clubs at protests and give police the right to arrest protesters who do so.
The occupiers marched through the neighborhood just off Lakeshore Avenue to the home of Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, who is sponsoring the ordinance along with City Attorney Barbara Parker. The protesters, followed by half a dozen patrol cars, arrived at Kernighan's house shortly before 7:30 p.m.
"You will see there is a police cruiser behind us because they don't take kindly when we fight for people's rights," protester Jessica Hollie told a crowd in front of Kernighan's home. Curious neighbors stepped out of their homes to witness the spectacle as the occupiers chanted, rang Kernighan's doorbell and even burned a small American flag.
The proposed ordinance is intended to prevent protests from turning violent by allowing police to quickly remove agitators seen carrying the prohibited items, which include clubs, shields, accelerants, painting devices, paint projectiles, sling shots, hammers and wrenches.
Those arrested under the ordinance would face up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Presently, police cannot arrest demonstrators unless they catch them in the act of using the makeshift weapons. Occupy Oakland members have been fighting the proposal, which they say is written so broadly it would effectively ban cameras, tripods and canes.
Occupiers shouted and cursed at Kernighan during a council Public Safety Committee discussion of the proposed law last month.
Kernighan cut that meeting short after demonstrators shouted down and appeared to threaten a supporter of the law.
"We hope to place political pressure on Pat Kernighan and all other local officials to be accountable for passing ordinances that deem that anything you carry at a protest can be seen as a weapon," Gricelda Gutierrez said.
Kernighan has not said publicly how she plans to proceed with the proposal, expected to be amended with more specific definitions as to what constitutes a weapon.
She can avoid bringing the law back before the committee and take it directly to the full council with the support of another council member.
The group gathered Monday night also carried less-dangerous items they said could be misconstrued as pretexts for an arrest under the ordinance, such as a fairy wand, a baguette, a piece of chicken, an umbrella and a yoga mat.
"We are poking fun. We are saying (these things) could be (considered real threats) if they pass it," said Ian Kersey.
Kernighan was not immediately available for comment.
Contact Kristin J. Bender at 510-208-6453 and Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.