OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — Police are keeping close watch on the Oakland Convention Center. Wednesday afternoon, anarchist demonstrators clashed with officers when they were denied entrance to a conference on human trafficking.
Demonstrators, calling themselves “Occupy Patriarchy” gathered outside the convention center to protest the conference happening inside, but it wasn’t long before it was clear that demonstrators behind the “FTP” rallies had a different agenda.
An interview we were conducting was interrupted by protestors using bullhorns to blast us down repeatedly, accusing us of being part of a larger conspiracy to assist police.
Inside, more than 430 registered guest and 70 presenters were meeting to discuss ways to end human trafficking and the exploitation of children. A crime, organizers say, that is on the rise and the victims even younger.
“The average is now, what we’re looking at about 13 years old, but we do have some kids who have come in as young as 11,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
But protesters were not there to listen, they were there to demonstrate. They knocked down police barriers and vandalized the doors of the conference center. They say that to focus on this is to distort their message. They say that this conference is just a launching pad for continued repression of sex workers and the further empowerment of police agencies at their expense.
“What we’re saying is that if you really want to help these people, this is not the way to do it,” said demonstrator Catilin Manning. “If you really want to help these people figure out where the traffickers are coming in. Maybe you should police the port.”
The HEAT (Human Exploitation and Trafficking) campaign has had success. In Alameda County since 2011 there have been more than 250 prosecutions and 180 successful convictions.
The conference runs through Friday, and anarchists have promised to return.