Oakland officials warn of 'agitators' exploiting peaceful events ahead of planned demonstration

Ahead of planned protests in Oakland over the weekend, the city is reiterating to demonstrators that those events sometimes provide cover for agitators who seek to incite violence and destruction. 

The protests are set to happen on Saturday in downtown Oakland, including a demonstration outside Frank H. Ogawa Plaza around 7:30 p.m., officials said. 

"Over the past month we have continued to facilitate peaceful protests and expressions of outrage about social injustice and racial inequality," the city said in a statement. Adding, "We celebrate passionate protest, but remind Oaklanders that when they attend protests after dark they may be providing cover for agitators who are more intent on vandalism and stoking civil unrest than advancing social justice." 

Two weeks ago on July 25, what started as a peaceful protest in Oakland in support of racial justice and police reform turned violent when the group split apart. A small group of demonstrators set fire to the Alameda County Courthouse, vandalized the Oakland Police Department, and shot fireworks at officers, authorities said.

According to Officer Johnna Watson, an OPD spokesperson, vandals smashed window, spray-painted graffiti, and pointed lasers at officers.

Watson told the Associated Press that what unfolded that night, was unlike the peaceful protests that had occurred in recent weeks. 

“This was different,” Watson said. "This group of protesters had specific intentions to participate in one way or another — whether that’s carrying backpacks in with clearly very heavy items, and the smaller group would actually be engaged in doing the damage — there is a nexus with all of the attendees.”