Community members confront OUSD security guards at the front of Parker Elementary in Oakland on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Credit: Hanisha Harjani

Oakland Unified security guards forcefully removed people from Parker Elementary School on Thursday evening, the first confrontation since parents and community members began occupying the campus two months ago in protest of the school’s closure. 

Since school board officials voted to close Parker K-8 at the end of May, community members and school parents have taken up residence at the East Oakland campus, renaming it Parker Community School. 

Last week, as The Oaklandside reported, community members held a graduation ceremony for about 20 Parker Community School students who spent the summer learning roller skating, chess, poetry, and the arts. Parents of Parker students vowed they wouldn’t leave unless OUSD reopens the school. 

OUSD had not intervened until Thursday. District spokesperson John Sasaki had told The Oaklandside on Monday that Oakland Unified officials were hoping the occupation would end on its own.

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Multiple videos captured on Thursday in the early evening by protesters and others at Parker depict physical altercations between OUSD security staff and community members. One video shared with The Oaklandside shows security staff arguing and grappling with a man inside Parker on Thursday evening before escorting him forcibly outside. 

In another video, a man identified by witnesses as Max Orozco, a candidate running for the District 2 school board seat, was seen sitting on a bench inside the school. Witnesses said Orozco was injured and taken to the East Oakland police station to give a statement.

As word of the altercation at Parker spread, Oakland school board member Mike Hutchinson and City Councilmember Carroll Fife rushed to the Ney Avenue campus. 

“When I arrived, it was mayhem,” Fife told The Oaklandside Thursday evening. “It was a high-anxiety, tense situation.” 

Additional footage shows people wrestling with security staff in an attempt to enter the building. 

Pecolia Manigo of the Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network, who is running for Oakland school board in District 4, posted a live video of the confrontation on Facebook, said multiple people were injured. 

“The level of brutality was just really crazy,” Manigo said. “There’s no reason why folks were hit the way they were. There are people here who got hit with fists, people whose arms were twisted.”

One of the videos posted online shows guards wearing OUSD security shirts stopping a man walking through the school’s doors. When the video starts, the man asks, “Am I under arrest?” 

“You will be,” a man in OUSD security gear says. “I am going to hold you until you decide what you’re going to do.” The person filming yells in protest, asking for the security guard to wait for an Oakland police officer to arrive and saying they don’t have the authority to make an arrest. 

OUSD spokesperson Sasaki said school staff went to Parker on Thursday and “found all the people who had been inside had left the premises.” Staff changed the locks and set the alarm, Sasaki said. 

“Someone picked, cut, or otherwise broke through a lock to get back inside the building,” he told The Oaklandside. “They were removed. But unfortunately, individuals forced their way back into the building.”

“Parker K-8 School is now closed,” added Sasaki. “The individuals at Parker have been and continue to trespass. We have directed them to leave from day one and have continued to do so on many other occasions. Of great concern is that the children that were onsite were sleeping in unsafe conditions and that the adults were running an unsafe and unlicensed child care program. We continue to demand that they find other ways to safely and peaceably express their concerns.” 

Hutchinson told The Oaklandside he planned to discuss the situation at Friday’s school board retreat. Members of the Parker Community School are planning to hold a noon press conference at the campus. 

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.