Parker Community School activists have been engaged in a sit-in protest at a former OUSD school since it was permanently shuttered on May 25.
Former Parker students and other students from the larger community attended a summer school program that concluded at the end of July. Activists were still claiming space at the school site even after the summer school program concluded, and organizers have been discussing next steps for their protest.
The school site has also hosted community events such as NBA Finals watch parties, community barbecues, flag football games, poetry open mics, a zine fest, book club meetings, a Narcan training, a Copwatch training, political reading and discussion groups, and a July 4 fireworks watch party. There had been no accidents or dangerous incidents on the site all summer.
On August 4, 71 days after the school takeover had begun, OUSD executive staff, on the last day before the OUSD School Board returned from its summer recess, sent private security contractors from Overall and Associates to go to the school and evict the activists.
It is still not clear who gave the order to evict the activists, as district spokesperson John Sasaki did not answer that question, but he did respond to Oakland Voices with the following statement:
“OUSD staff went to Parker on Thursday and found all the people who had been inside the building had left the premises. So, staff changed the locks and set the alarm. Someone picked, cut, or otherwise broke through a lock to get back inside the building. They were removed. But unfortunately, individuals forced their way back into the building.”
After a two-hour standoff between the private contractors and activists and community allies, which was documented and shared on social media, two of the activists ended up in the hospital, and at least eight others suffered minor injuries, according to individuals present at the scene. Activists held a press conference the next day to demand an investigation into the incident on August 4.
While details of the chaotic scene are still being sorted out, there’s evidence that the private contractors sent by OUSD executive leadership conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner.
Multiple eyewitnesses say that activists initially thought the private contractors were district staff, but became even more agitated when the contractors refused repeated requests to identify themselves.
The private contractors were also not in proper uniforms: The name of their Private Patrol Operator was not displayed, and all but one did not have any individual identification either. Instead, some of the contractors wore polo shirts that said “OUSD Event Staff” on the front and back. At least two of them were not wearing a visible uniform at all.
At least one of the private contractors used handcuffs to detain Max Orozco, a parent at La Escuelita, a K-8 school that had its middle school program cut last year. A video posted online by local reporter Jaime Omar Yassin, who goes by @hyphy_republic on Twitter, shows Orozco peacefully entering the front door of Parker before quickly disappearing. Multiple eyewitnesses told Oakland Voices that he was thrown to the ground and restrained by several private contractors.
Another video posted online by Yassin raises the question of whether or not the private contractors were employing a restraint technique on Orozco similar to the one that killed George Floyd in 2020. Orozco complained of chest pains during the Friday press conference.
According to multiple eyewitnesses and Orozco himself, the private contractors handcuffed and detained Orozco against his will for over an hour before Oakland Police arrived on the scene.
Oakland Voices has been unable to confirm whether or not any of the private contractors at Parker that day were certified to use handcuffs.
Also according to multiple witnesses, when the police entered the front door, activists rushed in behind them, presumably to reclaim the building.
The two-hour standoff ended because the police officers escorted the private contractors out of the back door of the building along with Orozco, who was taken to a hospital for treatment.
During the Friday press conference, Orozco said, “Yesterday’s attack, it was uncalled for…I was held against my will, handcuffed against my will. I’m not a violent person. I don’t raise my voice. I don’t use my hands.”
Another Parker activist, Rebecca Ruiz, said during the Friday press conference that one private contractor threw her headfirst into a tile wall, giving her a concussion.
When contacted by Oakland Voices by phone, the owner of Overall and Associates, Timothy Overall, denied any misconduct by his workers. “We were just there monitoring, a couple of my guys got knocked around,” Overall said. “None of my security personnel lost their professionalism. They were just standing there making sure no one could gain access [to the school].”
When asked whether or not his personnel detained Orozco, Overall replied, “I know nothing about that. That’s a police issue. That wouldn’t make any sense. We don’t detain people.”
Later in the interview, Overall added: “It wasn’t us detaining anybody. That story doesn’t make any sense at all…We don’t have the wherewithal to detain anybody.”
In the wake of the George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate the Oakland Schools Police Department, Overall and Associates was contracted in May 2022 to provide security at board meetings, football games, and graduation ceremonies. They do not provide security services at school sites during the school year, and are not the same as the security personnel employed by OUSD (known as Culture Keepers and Climate Ambassadors).
Via Twitter, the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents district security staff, denounced the behavior and actions of the private security contractors. “We are shocked to see these extreme tactics deployed against members of our community,” wrote SEIU 1021 President Joseph Bryant. “SEIU 1021 stands in solidarity with the parents, students, educators, support staff, and community members who have been bravely fighting to save Oakland schools from closure.”
Parker Community School activists say that the incident on August 4 has strengthened their resolve to continue their sit-in.
The first school board meeting of the year is on Wednesday.