Story and photos by Joshua Eaton. (Click here to view full photo set.)
Lifelong Oakland resident Maurice Johnson was leaving Starbucks on Sunday, Aug. 31 when he heard drumming and the sound of Japanese monks chanting the first line of the Lotus Sutra. Johnson then saw nine members of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), all in meditation posture, risking arrest by blocking the Oakland Marriott City Center’s main entrance. A banner at their feet read “Evict Urban Shield.” On the other side the hotel’s front driveway, about 25 other BPF members meditated silently with signs that called for an end to police militarization.
The protest’s Buddhist packaging surprised Johnson at first, but he understood its message instantly. “They’re protesting the hotel giving them room, giving the police room,” said Johnson, 40, who is African-American. “And they’re training them — excessive training, actually. Sort of like an army, you know. Not police training, sort of like army training. It’s a big difference.”