OAKLAND (KPIX) -- Oakland police chief LeRonne Armstrong and the leader of the city's violence-prevention department headlined a midday gathering of city and community leaders Saturday at Lake Merritt to decry rising violence and remember the city's many recent homicide victims.
Announcing "Stand Up for a Safe Oakland," rally at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, on Lake Merritt Boulevard between 12th Street and 1st Avenue, Oakland police said there have been 71 homicides so far in 2021. There were 85 homicides in all of 2020 and 68 in 2018, the lowest annual figure since 1999, according to a city report.
So, who showed up? And what happens next?
"Listen, when they gave me this job I told you I was going to be honest with you," Chief Armstrong told the crowd. "I told you I was going to fight for African-American people in the city. Ain't nothing changed."
Armstrong asked for Oakland to show up and what he got was a collection of families affected by gun violence along with a crowd of city residents frustrated by violent crime.
"Different races, different backgrounds but one message that's quite strong," said Carl Chan, president of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. "Let's work together and keep our city safe."
"I'm here to show support because I believe we do need a safe Oakland," said Carol Wyatt. "There's just way too much violence happening in Oakland."
"We felt it was very important to support our police department and support our city," explained Petra Brady of the African-American Chamber of Commerce. "We have to live here. We believe in safety just like everyone else does."
A smaller collection of anti-police protesters also showed up, and when they started to shout over the event, it touched a nerve. Homicide victims' family members confronted them briefly and the chief seemed to reference them in his remarks:
"You can shout from wherever you come from," Armstrong said. "It don't matter to me because I've lost people as a result of gun violence. So you can't tell me what this day is about."
"That's the issue right here," said a 76-year Oakland resident named Eugene. "We're going to have to have more policemen to provide adequate response to the community."
"The fact of the matter is, far too many people are afraid to come outside," Armstrong said. "Our seniors can't walk to the store. Young people are dying at an alarming rate. If you can't stand up for safe Oakland, what do you stand up for?"
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