OAKLAND -- A protest outside of the Elihu M. Harris state building on Monday morning ended in the arrests of seven activists, standing in solidarity with prisoners on a hunger strike throughout California.
At 7:45 a.m. six people locked themselves to the doors of the state building, where they remained for three hours until they unchained themselves and moved inside the lobby. Joined by an additional person, the group began to chant against Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which they claim engages in inhumane conditions such as extended periods of solitary confinement.
"We're here in solidarity with the hunger strikers to end torture in California prisons," said Annie Banks, 28, who was among those arrested. "We're here to make a strong statement that we extend solidarity, and we want to see those demands met."
Banks was referring to the five core demands set by prisoners, which include ending group punishment and administrative abuse and providing adequate and nutritious food, among other things. Several prisoners are on their 29th day of a hunger strike.
Officers were deployed after access to the Clay Street side of the building was blocked. Initially, officers moved to the back entrance of the building, where employees and others were free to enter, to create less of an avenue of confrontation.
However, once the protesters moved inside, officers also entered the building and activists were given an order to disperse by noon. When they failed to do so, they were arrested and charged with obstructing access to a public area, as well as for failure to disperse, said Sam Morgan, California Highway Patrol public information officer.
Some who gathered said they supported the activists and added that it is an issue that needs to be taken more seriously.
Jesse Strauss, spokesman for the protesters, said it was expected that the group would be arrested. He added that, despite the arrests, the group would continue to support the hunger strike.
"We will support our people, while keeping the focus on the hunger strikers," Strauss said.